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» soul searching road trip oznz – day 10 (15/06/2010)
i woke up quite early that morning, the night before, i had already told them that come what may, the next morning i would go out hiking at franz josef glacier, which we missed the day before. they all agreed that none of them would follow my trip as they much needed the rest and would only be ready to depart as soon as i got back from the hike. as i left the hostel, it was still dark, the time was 7:30 am and alone, I drove slowly towards the glacier. it was a short distance, the carpark is not more than 4km from the town and my car was the only one there. by looking at the track signs, i decided to follow the path towards peters pool to have my first glimpse of the glacial terminus. it was an enlightening experience, walking alone, in the dense podocarp forest track, and at dawn, with the first hint of light shining through the leaves that took me almost 20 minutes to reach the pool. reaching the kettle lake, the views were magnificent, what with the semi frozen pool, supported by chirping morning birds and i stood there alone, near the pond’s edge, gazing at the terminal face of franz josef glacier and it felt like forever. i took out my cigarette, lighted it and inhale the smokes as slow as possible while absorbing the views and the soundless atmosphere, saved by the cries made by the local inhabitants. i tried to sit on a wooden bench after some time, but finding it too cold, i returned to my original position, standing up and looking at the serendipitously remarkable mountains, gradually lighted by the rising winter sun.
▼ first! peters pool
▼▼▼ sunrise at franz josef glacier
to follow the same path which will wind up next to the glacier would take me more than an hour to reach and my time was precious. therefore i left the place and walked towards the carpark and reentered the westland national park which comprises of other glaciers and reserved forests along the west coast through another track, the sentinel rock track, which promises to have a better and closer view of the terminus but requires a bit of steady climb. the sign was accurately true and it steadily ascends for 30 minutes before reaching the wooden viewing platform where i thoroughly sit on the wooden steps for 5 minutes, out of breath and almost passed out. but the view from the platform was rewarding enough that as soon as i stood looking towards the glacier, i was re energized by the whole panorama and i began to take pictures earnestly.
▼ dark mysterious trail or the open one?
▼ picking the dark trail, sentinel rock walk
▼ glacier face from sentinel rock walk
later, while descending the track, i met other travellers who came by to see what i just saw. reaching the carpark, i restarted the car engine and revved up back towards the hostel where the others were almost ready to depart for our journey. zack and the rests took turns in pulling the bags and the kids and zack went to yha hostel for one last time to check out. before we left franz josef town for good, we stopped at the town fuel station to fill up and zack also bought me an extra large power bar for breakfast. i ate my breakfast while driving northbound along sh6 with the morning mists set in.
▼ yha franz josef glacier
less than 15 km past franz josef, another road signage for a scenic stop came to welcome us and i duly parked the car on the left side of the road. i got out leaving them behind and what awaited there was another spectacular view of lake mapourika with a mirror view lake and a distant enveloping mist. i walked towards the jetty and more postcard like view was captured. i spent a brief moment marveling at the sight and later got back inside the car and moved on. the whole trip on the west coast was quite uneventful as we passed small towns and villages without taking a break, the fresh landscape was slowly corrupted by the gloomy clouds and i had to scrap my initial plan of detouring 50 km inland towards hokitika gorge because of the weather. after a long stretch skirting along the beach, we reached hokitika town without stopping as everybody was fast asleep and we still had to cross the southern alps again eastbound.
▼ calm lake mapourika
after crossing hokitika river and leaving the town, we left sh6 at kumara junction and entered sh73. the road winded through hills along taramakau river when i stopped for a smoke at otira, there the landscape becomes mountainous again and we started seeing snow again. the clouds cleared and became azure blue. by the time everybody was awake, i continued the journey climbing uphill and we entered arthurs pass national park. it was dry tussock land all over again, except this time, unlike the previous days, the snow was not in abundance. i careened the car carefully while traversing the mountains and i stopped once as the temptation was too much to handle and snapped a few photos. the road began to descend a bit until we met the picturesque lake pearson where i had to park and let the passengers roamed free and stretched their legs in the process. it was to be our last pretty lake on the whole trip. later, our views of the mountains was dotted by rocky boulders and we knew perfectly well that this place must be the location for those chasing of urukhais in lotr the two towers. If we had more time, i surely would have stopped and explored those rocks but a quick stop was enough at castle hill. the snow got thinner, we continued our drive and the road finally settled and we were back on the plains of canterbury.
▼ a quick cigarette break near otira
▼ arthur’s pass national park
▼▼▼ alif, yomi and companion #3 at lake pearson
▼ castle hill
the time was almost 2:15 am and i speeded up a bit and we passed the town of springfield, stopped in front of four square at darfield for lunch takeaways. darfield was the epicentre of the january 2011 earthquake, the precursor for the devastating february 2011 earthquake. an hour later, we rejoined sh1 that we left a few days earlier and the car slowly cruising back towards christchurch. entering the city during daytime was quite different and the scenery and buildings were amazing. i took the same route and finally arrived at dorset house around 3:30 pm. most of us went inside to use the toilets and picked up our room key for the night. we loved it so much when we were there that we decided to have another night there. dorset house is also currently closed until 2012 for repairs in the aftermath of the february 2011 earthquake. zack requested them to ring up a taxi service to take the six of us to the city centre. about 15 minutes later, an mpv arrived on the doorstep and took us on a 10 minutes ride along hagley park and dropped us at christchurch cathedral square for a price.
▼ our favourite backpackers hostel, dorset house
the square was largish, filled by ancient and new buildings alike but created a uniformity in tone and design. the most prominent christchurch cathedral stood vigorously with its anthemic tower and spire, surrounded both sides by the war memorial on the right (north) and the chalice sculpture on the left (south). sadly the tower collapsed 8 months later during the february 2011 earthquake and we were really grateful in being able to see it then. zack and ija went to a fish and chips stall in the square and bought some for the rest of us our late lunch. the kids were excited to see the trams entering and leaving the square. it was then zack realized that she forgot to return the keys to our room in franz josef and it was still in her rucksack. panic stricken, i comforted her and told her that it was ok as yha also got their own branch somewhere close to where we were at the moment. i dialed yha franz josef and told them that the keys were still with us and they said that we should passed the key to their christchurch branch as their manager was still there and planning to return to franz josef that same evening. they told me that the address is in manchester st., just a few blocks away and by studying the local map, zack went alone to return the keys. we waited on the bench near the cathedral, befriended by the local pigeons for 30 minutes before zack came back all smiling. i knew it went well. it was almost dark by then and they went to buy souvenirs in few remaining open shops near the square and soon we walked back towards dorset house, about 2 km north of the square. it took us 30 minutes.
▼▼ christchurch cathedral
▼ the tram
▼ the war memorial
▼ the chalice sculpture
▼ and finally leaving for good
that night, after taking a hot bath, i went to the kitchen area as zack was cooking dinner. it was spacious, comfortable, warm and we were greeted by the local tenant of dorset house, tipora who showed an interest in hanging out with us. he even sampled zack’s tomyam, omelets and rice and made his favourite hot choc with honey drink for us. i went outside, the temp was closed to freezing point, and phoned diman to reconfirm our eta for the next morning. trembling with cold, i finished my cigarette, got back inside and left zack, ija, aina and tipora and went with the kids to our room and turned off the bed lights. i drove 385 km that day.
next» soul searching road trip oznz – day 12 (17/06/2010)