Hello again from the Cool Running's crew.... We are about 30 minutes south of Picton, right near the top of the South Island.
Since the last update we have driven from Queenstown area, along the west coast and up to the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers, then headed up towards the Northeast corner and town of Picton. Very spectacular drives, but slow going in a camper van :)
Queenstown was a bit of a shock and disappointment for us.... When Guds and I were here 20 years ago it was a quaint and small town....today it is a busy, traffic jammed, sprawling town/city.... To us sadly, the charm is gone and the place is overun with tourists and traffic. This is actually true for so many of the places we have visited on the south island. While the natural beauty of the South Island is undeniable, the charm of the popular towns has gone and they have been transformed into money making machines at every turn.... very sad to see, but in our opinion New Zealand's popularity unwittingly is leading these places to actually be undesirable. We actually saw a tourist info board in Milford Sound that said the place has gone from a few hundred visitors a year only a few decades ago, to over half a million visitors annually now, and their greatest future challenge is how to cope with this future increased influx, while still maintaining its charm.... Certainly a challenge I think will be tough to meet and I hope they can figure out quickly!
So from Queenstown we drove to The glacier region on the west coast and spent the night in Franz Josef. Early the next morning we all sang Happy Birthday to Guds, and brought mom coffee in bed :) Then off we set to drive to the Franz Josef glacier. Once we reached the parking lot it's another roughly 1 hour walk up the valley to get 700 meters from the glacier's terminal face. Again it was a bit of a shock at how much the glacier had melted since we had last seen it 20 years ago.... Sadly global warming alive and well we have no doubt. Never the less this was an incredible learning experience for Ben and Gaby, and the questions had started the day before and still continue. It was very exciting and inspiring to see its proportions, and when a helicopter flies overhead and lands on the glacier you really see how massive it is!!!! The picture attached shows us at the closest point you are allowed to walk to the glacier. The glacier right now is about 10km long and about 1km wide. We sat at the end point for about 30 minutes just admiring the beauty and just soaking in the atmosphere, before reluctantly walking back to the car park.
After that we headed to the town of Greymouth and then north east and back over the mountains. We stopped at an old abandoned mine at what was the former town of Brenner. This mine closed after a massive explosion in 1869 that killed 65 miners and was apparently the worst workplace disaster in New Zealand's history. It's beautifully preserved and the kids had a ball exploring it's many wonders.... And best of all as it was late in the day (6pm) we were the only visitors and had the place to ourselves.
Luckily it only gets dark at 9pm here, so after taking our time we headed off to find a campsite for the night. We stumbled upon a real jem.... a hole in the wall tiny town called Nelson Creek. The campground was quite empty and alongside a river, had a zip line for the kids and other play areas. We walked across the road to an old tiny pub, called the Nelson Creek Hotel.... What a find.... We could not have found a more genuine working class pub anywhere.... Locals having a pint, the odd f-bomb, dog outside etc etc.... Just an all around cool place. It was Guds birthday so we ordered a jug of local draft and some local grub and just had a cool time while the kids had fun across the road on the campsite zip line! One of the locals in the pub was a sheep sheerer and I considered getting a haircut but have seen how they shave sheep so kept quite!
Today was spent driving to Picton where we are meeting our good friends from catamaran Moby tomorrow. They have sailed all the way to the south island (most sailboats stay above Auckland area). Apparently they had 60 knots at anchor the other day. It will be good to see them again and catch up, as we will hopefully be crossing the Indian Ocean together later this year.
So with that it's good night for me (10pm) and time to get my beauty sleep 😴.