Friday, March 14, 2008

Logbook: NZ West Coast

Westcoast1On Monday morning, Betty and I drove over the mountains and through the woods, down to the west coast. The rugged shores and pounding surf along the Tasman Sea are a stark contrast to those of the aptly named Pacific to the east. We enjoyed many fine views and a stop at the geologically intriguing "Pancake Rocks" before stopping in the town of Hokitika which I have renamed it "Hokey-tika" in honor of it's ambiance. Known for its jade trade, the town treated us to an evening of trying to find an open restaurant followed by a noisy night by the train tracks. The weather was overcast then rainy on Tuesday which was just as well because there really wasn't much to see in the area. Betty did a little souvenir shopping during the day while I made a quick visit to a local dentist who gave me a clean bill of health. (For those of you who are keeping track, I've now seen dentists in Costa Rica, France, Scotland and New Zealand!) We had better luck making a booking for dinner, spent a quiet evening watching movies and enjoyed a more quiet, restful night.

Westcoast2We continued south along the coast on Wednesday, making an obligatory stop at the Bushman's Cafe where I made Betty try a "possum pie" which is made -- as the name implies -- with meat from the ubiquitous New Zealand possum that is a wildlife pest and at the top of the nation's "must eradicate" list. With that questionable culinary delight to fortify us, we carried on south to Franz Joseph Glacier which is a hyper-active center of tourism all related to the nearby glaciers. The town is in the middle of an explosive building process that promises to add many hotels, motels, shops, restaurants and holiday homes to the already crowded little area. You can have your pick from numerous vendors of glacier hikes, fly-overs and the like, but be prepared to wait on line if you want to use one of the two small internet centers. Compared to what I saw when I was here three years ago, I can tell you that the place is in its last days of being a manageable little oasis of beauty. Betty and I finished out day with a brief visit to the eponymous glacier before checking into our motel for a relaxing afternoon and evening.

Westcoast3Betty was quite keen to do a flying trip to land up on the glacier, but the weather yesterday was too overcast to make that possible. Instead, we drove a bit further south to Fox Glacier -- the other glacier in the area -- and made our way to a nice viewing area. The glaciers are not really very big, but they quite attractive even with cloud cover limiting the view. From there we drove out to Gillespie's Beach where hundreds -- maybe thousands -- of driftwood "sculptures" make for interesting viewing and exploration until the killer sand fleas start to eat you alive and force a hasty retreat. The weather this morning was almost perfectly clear, so Betty has gone on her flight while I am taking some much needed time online. As a "virtual person", New Zealand's internet service is a real problem for me. The limited number of facilities -- combined with the cost and limits of download that I have mentioned before -- makes it very hard to carry on one's iLife. I honestly believe that the problem is one of mindset not infrastructure, and I hope that the country "evolves" in its internet development very soon. Not just for people like me, of course, but for all of the people who visit and live here as well.

We will continue our southerly migration tomorrow, stopping somewhere for a couple of days on our way to Te Anau, gateway to the famous southwest Fjordlands.

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