Kiwi Jack: Chapter Five

Today was diversity day for our merry band of travelers on the West Coast of New Zealand.

No, we haven’t decided to re-classify ourselves as another race. It was this amazing left side of the South Island itself, where in literally just hours we went from standing within spitting distance of one of the world’s last ancient glaciers to driving through a rainforest as dense and lush as any in the world’s best tropical islands to closing out the afternoon on an amazing coastal drive and standing in the sea.

First up was the Fox Glacier. This ancient hunk of ice has receded somewhere along the lines of 6 kilometers since 1750, and more than half of that since 1935 (my cousin Jim is firing up the climate change war drum right about now – and he’d be right). Though it is a shame that this piece of our history is charging back up the valley from whence it came, check out what ice actually DOES as it retreats between two mountains.

See the rough edges? That’s ice erosion. Just goes to remind us what is the true power in this world; not oil, missiles or money, but water.

Speaking of water, after a wonderful 30 minute tramp from the parking lot (tramping is what they call hiking here), we finally encountered the Fox itself. I’ve seen glaciers before and they never fail to fascinate, especially that wonderful blue that always seems a bit fake.

I wish you, reader, could have felt the crispness of the air, the absolute silence and peacefulness of being there. I hope this picture helps in some small way capture what we were feeling.

Speaking of the “glacier blue” color, here’s a close up of a glacier melt pool; I love the colors here.

Though we had a bit of preview of the costal drive and the Tasman Sea yesterday, today was clearly the feature presentation. It got better and better as the day went on, though I love this pic of the sea retreating over the black, volcanic sand.

I mentioned diversity up front didn’t I? Well, here’s some wacky palm trees I shot from the shotgun side of our Nissan station wagon just about an hour from the glacier (though you can see some in the same valley as Big Fox). This is just a quick example of the amazing, lush, green vegetation that’s here.

With the sun starting to make its retreat to the horizon, we thought our picture day was over. Boy, were we wrong. As it turned out, the Punakaki Pancake Rocks and Blowholes might have taken the top spot on the highlights of this trip.

Start with the same question we had: what the hell is a pancake rock? As it turns out, no one, even professional geologists, actually knows. They think that over the course of millions of years that rock sediment was pushed up towards the top of the sea and over 100,000 years, these layered rocks began to appear. Here’s one:

These rocks aren’t cut; they were actually formed that way if you can believe it.

This little nature preserve is cut in just on the coast and includes a variety of crevices and sea-level caves. Imagine me, the wannabe professional photographer, standing there in the middle of the drizzle waiting for just the perfect shot of the water breaking over the rock. Think I got it?

The day finally wrapped up with me stepping out (ever so briefly) into the Tasman Sea to get yet another sunset shot.

Tomorrow, we cut back inland to drink some more wine. Maybe not as interesting for you to read about, but I’m looking forward to it. ūüôā

7:37pm, August 7
Westport, New Zealand