Franz Josef Glacier
Watching the TV weather forecasts last night it looked like there was to be a cold front travelling through the West Coast of the South Island, followed by sunny skies from then on, fingers crossed.
Looking out the window of the motel in Christchurch first thing in the morning it was all thin overcast but the skies had a reddish tinge. The old mantra "red skies in the morning, sailors take warning" came to mind, but we reckoned it should probably burn off as the sun rose.
Packed up and on the road by 9.00am we headed off through the morning Christchurch traffic. Doug was leading as I had only a rudimentary idea of the route, so I stuck to him like a burr in a blanket, despite several courageous attempts by loony car drivers to cut in on us I was having none of it.
Soon enough we were out on the main road to Arthurs Pass. Although the skies were a bit so so, I'd zipped up all the vents on my jacket and put on the rain overgloves just in case. A bit of light misty rain was no great issue despite being a bit cool and we made good time to arrive at Arthurs Pass for a bite of brunch. No bacon today, big bowl of pumpkin soup & crusty bread, Doug opted for a homemade meat pie & chips, looked good too.
By the time we hit the road again it had started to drizzle and the clouds were settling onto the peaks up ahead. Wasn't long before it started to rain in earnest, when you can hear the rain rattling on your visor through earplugs it is getting heavy.
Thankfully the traffic was fairly light by now, but being stuck in the spray behind a truck is never much fun, just can't see a damn thing. Most of the truckies were quite courteous though, signalling us through when the road was clear, thanks guys.
A short way past Arthurs Pass there is a great example of creative engineering. The road cuts along the face of a steep slope that is prone to rockfall and water runoff. To protect the road they have constructed an overhead "drain" for the runoff and an armoured tunnel so that the rocks bounce off the top and continue down to the valley floor below. See the photo.
The rain has really set in now and despite the promises of my beaut gear my feet are starting to feel a bit soggy and it feels like I'm sitting in a cool bath. Oh well at least the merino stuff I'm wearing is keeping me warm. Doug had already switched on his heated grips before Arthurs pass, so I thought it only fitting that I "test" mine to make sure they were functioning correctly. Mmmm, toasty hands are good.
There were only a few photo opportunities on this section, all the distance vistas were obscured by low cloud and at some stages we were running through the cloud base itself, best to keep on going.
A quick refuel at Hokitika and we decide to press on instead of having a break, only another 130km to go. The rain is hosing down & we are both a bit damp, let's keep rolling.
Crossing a small river all of a sudden the skies cleared and the sun beamed down upon us, Doug starts waving his arms in appreciation of the sky Gods' benevolence and I utter a few choice words of thanks myself.
Soon after we roll into Franz Josef Glacier township and get checked into the motel. Nice place, little cabins quite comfortably appointed. We have a bit of a discussion as to whether to go for a look at the glacier itself, a glance up the road at the clouds sitting on the deck sort of makes our minds up that perhaps tomorrow might be a better day.
After setting up the bathroom as a mini drying room, gear festooned all over and the heater going full blast we retire to the pub up the road for a feed and a celebratory drink. Lamb shanks for me and good old bangers & mash for Doug.
By the time we head back to the room, the peaks around the glacier are clear of cloud and we can see snow. Tomorrow morning we will head up there for a looksee as he head on toward Wanaka. The nightly TV news informs us that the area received 46mm of rain today, I reckon I had most of it in my boots, Doug the rest.
The SPOT tracker seems to have got over its fit of pique, now updating our position fairly quickly.
Time for a quick call home to Linda tonight and an early turn in, another big day tomorrow. Hard to believe we have been on the road for a week, where has the time gone?