The journey begins.. Christchurch to Franz Josef Glacier
We arrived to Christchurch late in the evening (morning 1am) and it was cold. Thank goodness we had packed our winter gear. Our accommodation was merely a warm bed to sleep and catch some shut eye before we began our epic journey of the South Island.
An early morning wake up and a long drive ahead called for breakfast. I wasn’t happy with my back pack and quickly searched for a shop to buy a new one L Luckily we found a little organic gem and fuelled up with breakfast in our bellies and healthy snacks for the day. We set off to explore Christchurch and to purchase a more comfy bag a little before we headed to Arthurs Pass.
I was worried that there wasn’t much to see in Christchurch but it’s quite a bustling little city. There is still many signs of damage from the earthquake but it was business as usual. We took a small walk to the Barbadoes St Catholic Cathedral and saw the remains. It would have been quite a remarkable church to enjoy before the quake, nonetheless you could still appreciate its beauty.
Our friends recommended we drive up to Port Hill and check out the scenery and view point. As the sun was out and we knew the weather was going to turn, we raced up and found Sugar Loaf Reserve. If you like cycling or participating in ultra marathons (or walking) – this is the place for you!! The views are amazing and the tracks looked great!! I wish we had more time here and got to experience some of the walks. The hills are occupied by lots of friendly sheep grazing on the slopes, enjoying pristine views of Christchurch city.
We began our drive to Franz Josef and were looking forward to the twisty, windy road of Arthur’s Pass. Google maps said it would take 5 hrs but adding in toilet stops but it took us approximately 6.5 hours. Pretty much every corner or bend you could stop for a picture, the landscape changes dramatically as you drive along Arthur’s Pass with roads lined with tall mountains, flat plains with winding rivers and quite literally boulders popping out of nowhere.
An interesting stop worth looking at is the Castle Hill rock formations. These magnificent rock formations are what remain after 30 million years when most of NZ was covered by the sea. Millions of years of natural erosion has shaped these rocks into the unique formations that are viewed by tourists and climbed by thrill seekers and perhaps even your inner child.
These formations do hold spiritual and cultural significance for the people of the Ngai Tahu tribe – in 1998 the given conservation status to ensure that it is acknowledged as a place of importance, spirituality and that it is preserved for future generations to explore and visit.
As you continue along your journey be sure to stop just after Death’s Corner at a little lookout and you may get to encounter the Kea. They are an alpine parrot and very rare!! The Kea is extremely mischievous and inquisitive, especially if you’re not paying attention to your car. They have an unusual bad habit of attempting to pick any rubber off your car, door seals, trims, antennas etc. Whilst they are totally adorable and cheeky, please refrain from feeding them. There are only approx. 5000 left in the wild and any reliance on humans for food will jeopardise their longevity in the wild.
Continuing on Arthur’s Pass you finally meet the Tasman Sea and following the path along the coastline. We were astounded at the ferocity of the wind and waves hammering the coast line, a very different experience to the beaches we frequent back home. As we continued driving, the scenery changed from flat plains with winding rivers to thick, lush rainforests with you guessed it, lots of rain. We stopped at Bruce Bay and photographed the mist lingering on the beach, it had such an eerie feeling to it.
The rain did not relent and we arrived at Fox Glacier and knew we weren’t going to see the glaciers. Our lovely host at our accommodation informed us that this was the worst summer the south island has experienced in 18 years!!! We have this knack of getting copious amounts of rain when we travel.
If you’re after a good bite in Franz Josef, look no further than The Last Kitchen. Our meal was reasonably priced, the service was very attentive and the food, delicious. We decided after dinner that an early morning wake up and drive to Wanaka was our best bet to attempt to out run/drive the rainy weather..