After a wonderful time at Queenstown, I drove up to the Fox and Able Tasman glaciers on the west coast of the south island. I first headed up through Mount Aspiring National Park. I was hoping to do a spectacular hike through the Matukituki Valley, but the weather had turned bad – really bad – raining buckets and the freezing level dropped to 500 meters. In fact, I had to rush through the coastal pass in case it snowed shut. I made it out to Haast in near blinding rain; which was an extremely tiny town on the coast. I was really bummed out because the next day it was quite clear and I saw all the beautiful mountains I missed being able to hike in. But considering how amazingly lucky I’ve been with the weather so far, I don’t mind missing a minor point. After meet a couple of nice British folks, we found we had the same schedule heading north and have been catching up with each other as we reach stops together. One other guest I was introduced to was the sandfly. Small black flies that bite like nobody’s business. They leave welts that stick around for days and positively infest the west coast. Now I know why people don’t live there.
I headed on up to the Fox and the Franz Josef glaciers and skipped all the infested beach hikes (even though it was quite beautiful). I took a short walk up to Fox glacier, which was pretty cool. By the time I got to Franz Josef glacier it was dark so I confirmed the heli-hike I scheduled and got checked into the hostel. The fun British folks were there by then, so we decided to head out to the small brewpub.
After dinner and a few rounds of pool on a smaller than usual table, the brewpub had a little drawing so we threw our names in the bucket. Turns out it was a contest. I got chosen with one of the guys I was with and it was a team event. One person had to eat 2 Wheetbix bars (think dry shredded wheat breakfast bars) without using their hands, and after the first person got done – the second person had to pound a pint of beer. Well, I got stuck with the wheetbix.
Long story short – we won. So we won a $50 bar tab – so we ended up buying a whole bunch of people beers and turned into the stars of the bar for the night. Go figure. Well, tomorrow is the heli-hike, so best get some sleep in.