Day 11 [Franz Josef, Hokitika, Greymouth] A Whirlwind Tour

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OUR MAIN GOAL OF THE DAY IS TO DRIVE FROM FOX TO GREYMOUTH, ALMOST 200 KM AWAY. We are going to travel northbound on this narrow stretch of land isolated by the Southern Alps is literally called The West Coast. Coasters, people living here in the West Coast, are proud be have coexisted with their lovely landscape for decades. While most of the South Island have been turned into farming land, Coasters were aware of their fragile ecosystems and successfully maintained a big part of its natural beauty. Thanks to them, we were able to appreciate the rugged stone cliffs and thriving rainforest.

Just a stone’s throw away from Fox is the Franz Josef glacier. You can take a walk up to the terminal face but only choppers can bring you up on the ice. The hike itself is mostly flat, and you are surrounded by rainforest and the occasional waterfalls.

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Feeling small near the Franz Josef Glacier

ONE WEST COAST TOWN THAT EXISTED THROUGH THE GOLD RUSH IS HOKITIKA. We were only here for a short stop but can’t help but to lurk around its many greenstone shops (too expensive though). There is a National Kiwi Centre which houses many NZ creepy crawlies, and a sock knitting museum which doubles as a commercial outlet. I preferred the detour to Hokitika Gorge, a gorgeous granite gorge complete with turquoise blue waters and a hanging bridge.

It feels great to travel independently, no fixed schedules, all the fun of spontaneity. Looking at the map, me and Eric decided to venture into a small parallel unpaved road. Other than not meeting any vehicles for hours, we were rewarded by a conflicting sense of peace and surprise. The West Coast is indeed blessed with many different micro-climates, ranging from the subtropical rain forest to the semi-arid prairie lands. We found temporary spiritual refuge at Dorothy Falls (somewhere in the middle of nowhere). This unique waterfall has water so dark it looks dirty. I eventually found out that this is due to the tannin in the water, a brownish substance created from dead rotting plants.

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The Hokitika bell tower

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Blue waters that are so appealing to the eyes at Hokitika gorge

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A moment of tranquility at the Dorothy Falls

WE ARRIVED AT GREYMOUTH JUST IN TIME FOR THE SUNSET. Greymouth is the largest town on the West Coast, and is a good hub for many adventure tourism activities. It is also a great place to find good quality backpackers (I’ll elaborate on my next post). Many tourist arrive here from Christchurch through the stylish Tranz-Alpine Railways, which offer a chance to travel through the alps in the comfort of a luxury train. We captured many pretty photos at a random beach in Greymouth. Watching the sun set gives you a wonderful feeling of completion. I was expecting a boring day on the road, but now am satisfied with all the things we’ve seen en route.

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Taking picture of the sun while he prepares to sink back to the ocean

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The beach itself serves as a good photography background

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Eric Chen enjoying a romantic sunset with the love of his life (his camera)

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Levitation of the day: Monteith Brewing Museum in Greymouth

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