Chapter 26 of the short travel stories at gone Atlas. Want to read more? Go onto the section of the menu named Short Travel Stories and begin by reading all the way from Chapter 1.
Chapter 26: New Zealand’s West Coast
After Wanaka we decided to take a ride through the West Coast of the South Island. That meant driving through Haast and then heading up to Greymouth passing the glaciers, to eventually go back inland and reach the north to do the Abel Tasman Track.
Haast and a crazy old man
Basically we leave Wanaka in a rush as they tell us it wills tart snowing soon and Haast Pass might be closing the day after. We leave late that afternoon, and arrive to Haast at around 10 pm. There’s no phone signal anywhere and from driving here and there we find a trailer park in the middle of nowhere. Once there we pay around $10NZ for the night and fall asleep straightaway.
The next morning it was rainy, cold and very windy. Terrible weather. We are cooking some eggs in the back of our van, when the owner of the trailer park comes out yelling at us.
“There’s a reason why we have a kitchen over there! What are you doing?”
Clearly we didn’t notice the kitchen, but the eggs were almost ready so we just told him it was ok. Now, what happened next was unbelievable. The guy looks at my friend with a crazy face and yells at him:
“Are you fucking stupid or what? How can’t you not notice the kitchen?”
He’s saying this while he moves his arms in a crazy manner, and then finishes off by telling us we must leave now.
So we leave.
Franz Joseph Glacier and Fox Glacier
Agitated by the incident we drive off pretty quickly, hating the guy and hating Haast too. We’re a bit of in a schedule if we want to do the Abel Tasman, so we make it to the first glacier that same day.
Fox Glacier is the first one on the way to Greymouth. When we get to the parking lot, it’s raining, so we get our raining coats and head to the place. It’s a short walk and unfortunately it wasn’t the best weather to appreciate what we had in front of us. I had never seen something like it, and it impressed me a lot, especially the top of the glacier, which was clean (the rest seemed dirty form the wind and the rain).
Again, we’re a bit of on a schedule so we drive to Franz Joseph and when we get there the weather is much better. We’re considering booking a helicopter ride, but they tell us there will only be one the next day, too bad for us.
Hence, we’re forced to just appreciate it from the ground. Oh well, no biggie, the walk to get there is pretty nice and then you arrive and like my friend said: “It’s like being in the Interstellar movie! It’s like another planet!”
And it honestly was. In front of us there’s this massive glacier, alternating from white to light blue to a brighter blue color. It’s surprising how it’s so edgy and sharp at the top, and trapped in the middle of two dirt mountains. Then, behind us we discovered a sort of left over piece from when it melted. It was half buried in the ground, with just some part of it sticking out and it looked like a cave that lead into an ice tunnel, an ice world. The marvels of nature!
Greymouth, Punakaiki and up to Nelson
That same night we head off towards Greymouth. We made it and stayed at one of the best hostels I’ve ever been to, part of a Global Backpackers Association. The rooms were incredibly comfortable and everything was extremely clean.
There wasn’t much to Greymouth, it’s a passing town and that’s it. However, Punakaiki, which is jut like half an hour north, has some cool things: the pancake rocks. These rocks are just on the coast and they’re like stacks of pancakes, plus there’s a blowing hole and the walking loop itself is quite nice. We’re not talking a natural wonder, but definitely something worth it to stop and see.
Later on we drive towards Nelson, through some nice roads full of trees and vegetation. That night we arrived safe and sound after a lot of driving, ready to start the track the next day.