It was an early start for us yesterday morning. We were ready for the bus to pick us up at 8am to take us to our next destination Franz Joseph. We had a couple of stops along the way, first one was at Hokitika, a tiny town where they make and sell the greenstone (Jade) jewellery. Next stop was at Ross which is the richest gold mining town in New Zealand, we had a bonus of being able to pan for gold too which was cool. The lady showed us what to do and then it was our turn. It was actually a lot harder than it looked..I was so worried about throwing any gold back in the water, but eventually I got there and there was 6 tiny fragments of gold...yaay!! Not quite enough to make me rich, but it was fun doing it. Then we put the gold in a little tube and filled it with water. Next stop after that was Lake Mapourika for a photo opportunity, unfortunately the driver didn't stop anywhere else as the weather wasn't clear enough to see the mountains.
So when we'd checked into the hostel we walked around to the glacier hiking shop to pay for our afternoons hike up the Franz Joseph glacier. We were a bit dubious about doing the hike, but we had to give it a go. So at 3pm we went back to the shop to get kitted out for our long afternoon. We got our boots, crampons, coats, trousers, hats etc and then jumped on the bus to take us there. It was about a 45 minute walk just to get to the glacier, we had to walk through small streams to get there, which was when I realised that my boots had lots of holes in them...my feet were soaking before we even started up the glacier!! Anyway, we finally made it to the foot of the glacier, it was a great sight, this huge glacier in the valley of the rainforest, but I was a bit scared as it was really high and steep....so we put the crampons onto our boots and set off. There are staircases sculpted into the ice which were pretty hard to climb up as some of them were really steep, but the guide was patient with us so we weren't under too much pressure. The further up we got the more amazing the ice was, and the bluer it got, it was pretty spectacular, well worth the hard work to get up there. At one point I got a bit carried away and wasn't really watching the guide and started to go up a staircase that wasn't supposed to be used.....it was a lot steeper and harder....then I realised my mistake and had to cross over, everyone thought that was quite funny! Apart from being a bit scared at first and the weather being pretty dismal (it was freezing and raining), we both thoroughly enjoyed it, it was really exhilarating...Mum did really well, she was up there with the best of them, I was really proud of her! The guides did give us lots of facts about the glacier, but unfortunately I was so busy concentrating, I didn't take much in, so I can't bore you facts and figures!! After about 2.5 hours (I think) of climbing up and down the glacier we were ready to be taken back to the hostel. We were shattered and my legs were really wobbly by this point. After a cold shower (not happy that there was no hot water left) we had some food and pretty much after that went to bed.
Today we were up early again to do the kayaking on lake Mapourika. My legs are still stiff today, so I was quite glad it was just rowing with my arms...but little did I know that I'd have to actually use my legs to steer the rudder too! We had a nice day, Mum was really nervous as she's not the best swimmer, but we did pretty well. The lake was massive and you could see the reflection of the trees in it. It was pretty windy though so was quite hard work getting to the other side of the lake. After we did that the guide took us down a windy stream which was lovely, it was like floating down a jungle river because of all the greenery around, very peaceful. Mum and I got stuck a few times, but the guide helped us out...we weren't the most competent rowers. I think we rowed approx 7km today, and our arms our really sore now, it was really tough work.
We're off to Queenstown tomorrow morning, we'll be doing a few stop offs on the way, I hope it stops raining...it's throwing down again now!
Here are some pictures from the past week
Panning for gold
View of the valley from Franz Joseph Glacier
Mum and I with our pick axe!
On the way down
View from the bottom