Haast to Okarito

Trip Start Jan 22, 2013
Trip End Mar 18, 2013

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Monday, February 11, 2013

Headed south this morning to Jackson Bay. In season, which we're not, they have penguins with yellow feathers on each side of their head.  They have signs along the way that say to "Slow down for penquins".  Unfortunately we didn’t see any live one’s, but saw a replica at the very informative visitors center in Haast. There is a lot of history on the West Coast with the discoveries of the area, gold mining, fishing, road building, etc. JB is as the end of about a 20 mile road thru varying rain forest and coastline, crossing about 10 rivers along the way.  Most of their bridges are single lane and depending on which direction you’re going, a sign tells you which driver has the right of way.  It rained really hard when we arrived and could hardly get out of the CV without getting absolutely soaked in seconds.
Drove back north a couple of hours to Fox Glacier and walked almost a mile up to the face of it.  We’ve seen glay-sea-er’s , Karen likes how they pronounce glaciers, before and this one wasn’t  a whole lot different, except you could walk up to it, as do 10,000 people each day apparently.  On the drive up to the carpark we saw signs that showed where the face was in 1750 and 1950. In 1750 it was probably 2 miles from the current face location.  The air temperature was about 60 degrees maybe. 

From there we headed further north, inland of the coast, and passed thru more rain forest and saw many large lakes.  The highway at times is very winding with hairpin curves and then straight sections.  It’s a challenging drive for the 3-5 hrs a day we take. Today we decided not to venture up to the Franz Josef Glacier.  In the town it was raining pretty hard and what we’ve read is that Fox Glacier is better or hiking to.  Hopefully we didn’t miss much, but there’s so much to see here.  It’s all about the beauty of nature and the water, mountains, and forests.  How they can stuff so much of it into one fairly small country I don’t know.  It’s just not fair!

Tonight we stayed in Okarito at a non-powered campground within a 5 minute walk across the grassy airstrip to the beach on the Tasman Sea.  I had read about this place in Outside Magazine, and specifically about the huge lagoon here with over 70 varieties of birdlife.  When we checked in with the kayak rental shop (the only business in this village other than another outfitter and a B & B), we realized we didn’t stop at the grocery store in Franz Josef.  Oops.  So, no cereal for breakfast tomorrow.  Karen bought a couple of energy bars to go with our yogurt.  They do have internet and coffee so we’re going back to the shop in the morning. 

I went for long walk on the beach after our chicken, bacon, mozzarella tortellini dinner.  Probably walked a couple of miles.  Unlike the beaches at home, this one has absolutely NO litter.  Since there is nobody here I had the mile of beach to myself.  I found some interesting sea worn rock formations and so much small driftwood.  We had a short campfire before it started to rain again. A young couple in a Toyota mini van parked next to us.  He came over and helped with the fire by pulling dead palm fronds off the tree next to the campfire.  He was from Berlin.

There was also a Flying Kiwi tour bus that pulled into the campground with about 20 people.  Their bus pulled a wood trailer outfitted with bike racks, gas cooking facilities, etc.  They set up ten 2-person tents, cooked, had a beach fire, and by 8 am the next day were gone.  It’s a 27 day trip but people can join in for whatever amount of time they want.  They ride bikes, walk, run, or just ride the bus.

Again, since i got way ahead of myself, you've already seen some photos of this leg, but here are a few more.
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Noma Edwards on

Great photos.

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