We woke up at Lyell Camping Ground, just past Murchison en route to Westport in the Buller Gorge. Amazing, mountainy views.
We must have been very distracted by the views because we went 20km in the wrong direction-but it was totally cool, because we had driven that whole section of road in the pitch black the night before!
We got turned around and the drive was truly MAJESTIC. The mountains were green and beautiful, with wide powerful rivers cutting through. Stunning.
Once we got to the Western coast, the ocean views were incredible.
Unfortunately, we didn’t spot any of those adorable blue penguins.
Our next stop was at Paparoa National Park to see the Pancake Rocks.
Shout out to DOC, the New Zealand Department of Conservation (or “Conversation” as we frequently called it). They do a great job with the infrastructure surrounding these natural landmarks, with interesting information and pathways that actually protect the landmarks.
We had a lot of car time today. We drove through a bunch of cute little towns–Greymouth, Hokitika and Hari Hari.
Finally we arrived at Franz Josef, an adorable village that completely revolves around the Franz Josef Glacier.
We took a short hike up to the glacier, and on the walk, discussed our study abroad experiences and the side trips we took. Jo said he worked his butt off to make $1,000 doing snow removal the week prior to leaving for his semester in Australia, but when he and his roommates had a “small get together to avoid getting in trouble going to homecoming parties” and got busted, $700 of what he made ended up being paid to the City of St. Cloud to pay off that ticket.
::Note to future parent-selves: terrify future children with this tale!!::
We hiked on top of all the sediment left behind as the glacier receded. There were really long waterfalls coming down the mountain walls. The ice of the glacier had a blue tint, and the glacial stream was an icy blue/green color.
We chatted with some French people who were collecting slate slabs for cheese platters. Perfect gift idea! But super heavy. Not doing it.
We took a bunch of sweet pics of Jo reenacting cliffhanger and being crushed by a boulder…
…and a video of true cinematic mastery.
We went back into town, got dinner, then headed out to our campsite at Gillespie Beach, which was at the end of a 12km long, windy, narrow, gravel road. It was quite the experience getting there. We had to dodge sheep who couldn’t decide which side of the road they preferred to graze.
Wrapped up the night with the most amazing stargazing we’ve ever experienced. Well done, New Zealand!