Day 155: Up, Up And Away

Tues. 15th January 2013

Two smug helecopteritesAs we head to the kitchen to wash up our breakfast dishes we hear the sound of a helicopter overhead. Yes! We both say, as we are hopeful that finally we will get our helicopter trip. Certainly the sky is much clearer and we can see the tops of the mountains. Rushing down to the Fox and Franz Heliservices office we find a hive of activity and we are go!!

Looking down the glacierAfter parting with our money we headed round the corner to the helipad where a helicopter was all ready to go. Six excited passengers bundle in and don headphones. I have never been in a helicopter before and was amazed at how gently it rose off the ground and away. I was sat in the middle in the back but the view was still brilliant as we headed off over the coast and to the Fox Glacier. It was a strange sensation travelling at quite a low altitude and just popping over the top of the trees on the ridge of a mountain. As we did so the glacier came into view. We circled the glacier about three times from all directions seeming passing slowly over the ground. A second helicopter appeared and I though it zoomed by at great speed but expect in reality we were both going at the same speed.

Snow landingWe then circled a sheltered flat area of snow and landed. The obligatory group photo followed before we were allowed to roam free and take photos. We were soon joined by two more helicopters, before we had to return to our helicopter. This time I was shown to the front seat with the other lady who was in the middle in the back on the way here. Sitting in the front was awesome as I snapped away at the scenery I wanted, as well as Dave tapping me on the shoulder and pointing – take this pic/ take that pic.

Glacier from above with amazimg ice configurationWe then circled the Franz Josef Glacier. The ride was so smooth I was not scared at all – until the pilot rose above the mountains and the helicopter was buffeted in the wind. He soon reduced altitude and advised his base that it was a bit choppy higher up. I must be getting old when the pilot seems hardly out of school and wearing short trousers (the hairy knees gave his age away). The pilot was very competent and safety conscious and in what seemed no time at all we were back at base and both buzzing about what we had just seen. We had initially booked to fly over Mount Cook but the cloud was too low so had a reduced price shorter trip which was a slight disappointment but we were just grateful to have taken off at all after our delays yesterday.

View down the valley to the seaFour hundred words and it is only 9:30am! No worries, the rest of the day does not warrant many more!

Hokitika BeachAfter spending the extra night in Franz Josef we wanted to head off and cover some miles towards Nelson and hopefully reach there tomorrow. The next stop on the agenda is Hokitika where we would have liked to walk in the gorge but the rain was back so we decided just to visit the “wild and driftwood strewn” beach and it was.

Cormorants on Pancake rocksGreymouth, further up the coast lived up to its name, so we passed it by. Next up was Punakaki, on the list of top 101 things for Kiwis to see, with its pancake rocks and blow holes. The visitors centre advised these were best seen at high tide which would be 2:18, giving us time for lunch first. As the roads are all very quiet we were surprised to see so many vehicles in the car parks. We were both pleased that we had managed to overtake another vehicle on the road today, which was not a tractor.

Crazy rock formationAt Punakaki there is a purpose built walking trail with viewpoints to see the rocks and coastline. Luckily the rain eased off for us to have a pleasant 20 minute walk around the trail without the viewpoints being crowded. Geologists cannot explain the layered rock formations (come on Richard, use your degree and tell us!) but it is another wonder to add to our growing list of geological oddities.

Bikes on boardAs we headed on towards Westport the bikes on the back looked precarious and when we checked a bolt had come out of the bar holding them onto the back of the campervan and we were in danger of leaving the bikes strewn over the road. The large van did have its uses as we could temporarily store the bikes inside until we could buy a new bolt. Luckily Westport was not too far away and a kind motor repair shop lent us a spanner to fit a new bolt.

Christmas tarts aka mince piesOn the whole the van has worked with just a few niggles like the power cable is too short so we have to make sure the space we are allocated allows for this and the kettle works intermittently. We managed our afternoon tea OK with much loved mince pies, which we could not find in New Caledonia for Christmas. Also we now know how the previous renter managed to get the carpets soaked – we have done the same by driving on flooded roads in the rain! We knew that we were not getting a brand new van and our daily rental cost reflected that.

Sunset on the beachWe had selected a campsite by the beach for tonight which initially did not seem a bright choice but as evening drew in the sky brightened and the sun came out. By sunset the sky turned a gorgeous orange/red and it was just right for a post supper stroll along the beach. What a good way to end our day after such a great beginning, finally acheiving our trip in a helicopter.



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3 Responses to Day 155: Up, Up And Away

  1. Absolutely brilliant. Now quite sure I am not scared of heights.

  2. Richard Caswell says:

    Hi Guys
    Its taking me longer to read about your trip than it is for you to do it! If Geologists cant explain the Punakaki rocks what chance do I have! I remember going gold panning near there and then heading down to the glaciers, basically an anticlockwise trip from Christchurch.
    190 days now.Wow it has gone quick. Just had a weeks skiing in Finland and off to Rome in 3 weeks. Still working in Holland but will be in the orofice until May doing 3 on/ 3 off.
    Looking forward to seeing you both when you get back. Guess you’re looking forward to settling down in sunny Oxford!

  3. Dave says:

    Hi Richard,

    Thanks for staying in touch. Glad you are staying out of mischief. When skiing, how was the poulet?

    We are now starting to worry that this will be over too soon.

    See you when we get back

    Dave & Janet

    PS – Are you thinking of a different Oxford?

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