'A Shmock and a Pancake'

Trip Start Sep 09, 2004
Trip End Ongoing

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Another early rise this morning. Todays journey was to Frans Josef stopping on the way in Punakaiki to visit the 'Pancake Rocks'. I don't know the scientific babble behind them off hand, but they really are quite impressive. Apparently, it's taken millions of years for them to form yet no-one can explain how they came to look like a huge towering stack of pancakes. Again, the coastline here is rugged and so is the weather. The volume and force of the water that was crashing into the rocks beneath us was ferocious. It sounded just like thunder. The contrast between the two coasts here is incredible.

We arrived in Frans Josef early this evening. The journey down South was a good one - very scenic, all along the West coast with the Tasman Sea on one side of us and the Southern Alps on the other. Awe inspiring. No other words for it.

Tonight we stayed at another camping ground style place that was being partly refurbished and built at the same time. Our room was good and offered us our own shower and toilet which was a rare treat, though the whole dorm did smell like the inside of a rabbit hutch. When we arrived there were building contractors everywhere. I have to say though, it didn't cause us any inconvenience at all as the facilities we needed were provided and worked, so though short, it was still a pleasant stay. When this place is finished it will be beautiful. A great base to access the Glacier.

We had booked in for two nights here as it was adventure day tomorrow. The activity of choice was a strenuous nine hour trek and ice climb scaling the mighty Frans Josef Glacier. It's one of New Zealand's 'must-do's' and is supposed to be an unforgettable experience. I was staying put with my foot which wouldn't have held out, so again I'll have to partake on my return. Igno was keen though and promptly set his alarm for 6am in case he forgot.

It went really chilly this evening. A different chill to the other evenings. A good indicator that we are now a fair way down the West coast of the South Island, in the heart of the Southern Alps and even closer to Antarctica. I know it's an odd thing to say but it was almost as if the air quality had gone up a level to the next grade of freshness. And though I didn't see any of the glacier or its surrounding mountains, we were still residing in a little village dotted with huge snow capped peaks and mist so you knew you were amongst the domineering presence of the Southern Alps, imposing that familiar feeling of insignificance against the towering backdrops.

This really is one hell of a country.
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