Day 153: When It Rains…….

Sun. 13th January 2013

Low lying mist and full riverAs it is Sunday and we do not have a busy day ahead we had hoped for a leisurely start to the day but the weather put pay to that with thunder rumbling – echoing & booming – loudly  around the valley just after 6am to accompany the drumming of rain hitting the van roof.

We could not sleep through the noise and also were worried about getting off the camp site as puddles were forming around the van. After a quick breakfast we managed to struggle up the slight incline on the third attempt. To check local knowledge we waited for shop to open at 8am and asked about the road and weather forecast. They had no news of rods being closed so we set off in the pouring rain. As we didn’t see any other vehicles for quite some time, we started worrying do they know something we don’t? Whilst it was slow going, there weren’t any real problems.

Thunder Creek FallsOur leaflet on the area told us of many sights on the way, including three short walks to to see three different waterfalls. We opted out of the Fantail falls, but had a quick stop for the 5 minute walk to Thunder Creek falls – well I walked to photograph them for my blog! Apologies for the rain on the lens but it was ***ing it down.

We saw a sign for Roaring Billy falls but decided against a 25 minute walk as the rain had not eased at all. I am sure the scenery would have again been breathtaking but the best we saw was outlines of the mountains through the mist.

Haast came and went – not big or notable but we did stopped for coffee shortly after crossing the Haast river. I then took a stint at driving – bad timing as the weather deteriorated and I had to work out how to put the wipers on fast speed, as well as find the headlight switch and remembering that our aerodynamically challenged brick (aka campervan) would need a lot more stopping distance especially going downhill. The mist came down and the rain torrential. Many of the rivers had burst their banks. It was quite scary when the road turned into a stream and certainly worrying when we saw an empty car nose first in the ditch. Luckily that was the worst of it, but I was still glad when my driving stint as over.

Closed for all possible reasonsAs it was not worth lingering over the scenery we continued up the coast and reached Fox Glacier township just before lunch, again not much of a town. (Though the shops did sell Fox’s Glacier mints). The main attraction is unsurprisingly the glacier. In NZ they do “say it like it is” in naming places and streets. I did like the road name next to a Chinese restaurant in Te Anau called Wong Way (sorry Mel I did not manage to get a picture!) and also Suburb Street in Queensland, although we were concerned when we passed Stalkers Lane).  Whilst digressing, I would just mention this NZ weather, especially on the West coast.  You may think the rain in the UK is bad but trust me this is something else. In Milford Sound, the annual rainfall is between 7m and 12m (metres for goodness sake). When it rains it can be torrential as was shown last week when there was half a metre of rain in one day. I have not yet found out how much rain fell today but it was a bucketful. Biblical was the term that Dave wanted to use.

Fox Glacier through the mist and rainAnyway, we headed to the Fox Glacier access point car park for sustenance (i.e. lunch) before the short walk to the glacier. The walk was even shorter than normal as the route was shut for every possible reason, river surge, flooding, ice fall and rock fall. There were signs showing where the glacier used to end in 1890ish and 1937ish (I did not stop in the rain to note the exact dates) showing that it has receded by a distance, but even so it is still not much above sea level at its lowest edge.

Nearest we got to the glacierUndaunted we drove on the 30 minutes to Franz Josef Glacier  but had no better luck, as that was closed too. The nearest we got to either glacier was watching the chunks of ice floating past in the river. This does not bode well for our helicopter trip tomorrow: about a 50:50 chance I would say (confirmed later by the tour guide). I was surprised that the lower end of the glaciers are almost at sea level, and apparently this is due to the valleys being steep and the annual snowfall of 30m pushes the ice down the valley at a very high rate (10 times faster than most valley glaciers). Not as spectacular as Perito Moreno but still interesting to see and compare.

Our campsite this evening was governed by where there was internet or at least mobile phone signal so that Dave can connect his phone to the outside world.

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One Response to Day 153: When It Rains…….

  1. Paul says:

    All looks exciting – I loved New Zealand. Never far from somewhere to sail.
    If you have a rainy day on the north island find the glow worm caves – waitomo or somewhere similar. Very impressive.
    Have fun

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