Day 11. Tuesday. Murchison to Franz Josef.
Trip Start Oct 09, 2010
23Trip End Oct 31, 2010
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It’s a bad day for driving weather wise, it’s raining non-stop. Kim and I are debating via sms whether we want to go canyon tubing in Greymouth, but the closer we get to town the less appealing it is. I’m already sick, it’s raining, and paddling in the cold river water does not sound like something I want to do. Plus, we’ll arrive in Greymouth around 12:30, the rafting will take 03:30 hours, and we then still have to drive another 180km to Franz Josef.
We have a long lunch instead, at MacDonald’s in Greymouth. This town is the largest on the West Coast, and the commercial centre of the region. The boom time for the town was in the 1860s during the gold rush and today you can still feel a bit of the character of a gold-mining town.
Our initial stop for the evening would have been Ross, 75km outside Greymouth. But that would have meant that we would have to drive 100km to Franz Josef first thing on Wednesday morning, because we were scheduled to go on the Glacier hike that left Franz Josef at 08:45. So, we reworked the route map over our salmon dinner the night before, deciding to push on and drive into Glacier Country today, sleep there, and go on the hike the following morning
Getting to Franz Josef is exactly what we expected from the West Coast, it’s jungle scenery, dense, it rains constantly. We were warned about this section of the road, and we took care to drive slowly. We pass the teensy settlements of Pukekura, Harihari and Whataroa and we eventually drive into Franz Josef just after 3:30pm. There’s a dense mist hanging over the town. But it feels like an alpine resort, the whole layout of the town feels like the set of a movie.
Franz Josef township has a good range of accommodation and places to eat. It is a little service village (approximately 330 inhabitants) located approximately 5 km away from the face of the glacier on State Highway 6. There’s a reasonably sized gift shop in the main street, right next to the supermarket. Here I find nasal spray and flu-tablets, I’m feeling desperate now. We do a bit of grocery shopping; surprisingly Franz Josef has a very decent sized store. We stock up on supplies for the next two days; apparently the road further down the west coast is very remote
We find a really nice place to sleep at the Rainforest Retreat in Cron Street ($35 per site, free showers), but it’s only 17:30 and still early to settle in for the afternoon so we leave one of the vans and decide to go to the glacier hot pools down the road. It’s $23 per person but what a treat! It’s three thermal pools with varying temperature, located outdoors, so you sit in this bubbling hot water while it’s raining and the mist is surrounding you. It was really relaxing and made me feel a bit better. But getting out of the water was the worst; it felt like my feet were freezing to the cement walkway.
Supper was at the campsite, a pasta and mince dish, with some of the leftover salmon that had been converted into sushi starters. Cadbury’s chocolate for dessert. Yum.
We head to bed early, tomorrow is the big glacier climb, and we’ve been looking forward to it for months.