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Franz Joseph Glacier; One Lane Bridges; Wild Kiwi; Hokatika; Vandalized Cows; A Greedy Kea

The next two day-segment of our New Zealand Adventure took us south on the West Coast to Franz Joseph Glacier, a 2 hour drive from our B&B in Awatuna. But before we left, our hostess Trixie (shown here at left) prepared a splendid breakfast that we shared with two other guests, Americans from Manhattan. Both were charming folks, but he mentioned having been a photographer in a previous life. (Note just for guys: in that past life he was a photographer for Penthouse magazine… needless to say, I never raised the subject in front of the ladies. Talk about a job they wouldn’t have to pay me to do… Smack! Sorry, Dear…) 

While at breakfast, I had the stove on in our apartment. Not cooking scones or muffins, but drying my socks, which I had washed the night before and left out to dry. 45 minutes at 50C was perfect to finish the job.  For some reason, Suzanne thought this was hilarious.  It made perfect sense to me.

The hike to Franz Josef Glacier (Ka Roimata o Hinehukatare in Maori) was along the Waiho River, another glacial stream colored blue-grey by rock flour from the glacier. 

The glacier was first sighted by Europeans in 1865, in the form of German explorer Julius von Hasst, who named it after the Emperor of Austria. (Naming mountains and glaciers after Emperors usually guaranteed funding of round-the-world expeditions in that era.) The glacier was in an advancing stage until 2008, when it began retreating; it is currently 12 km long. Just like armies, they push forward and back over the years. This telephoto shot was of the ice fall at the top of the glacier; those ice pinnacles are probably over a hundred feet high. Properly equipped mountaineers can climb that area, but you need specialized gear and a helicopter to put you on top. (Regrettably, we had left our crampons, ice axes and long woolies back in Florida when we climbed  challenging glaciers in Ocala.) 

Kiwis will immediately recognize this image; for Americans, it requires some explanation. Here down under, traffic volume is not what you find in the States. Kiwis have found that they can reduce the costs of bridges dramatically by making them all one lane wide. This photo is on a major highway, not Farm Road 2749. When you approach a bridge, there will be a sign with two arrows, one pointing up and the other pointing down; one is red, the other black. The black arrow has the right of way, and the red arrow has to give way. It all works fine until a 20-something gets to the bridge just before a 60-something. Even if the 60-something has the right of way, the younger driver (particularly if he is Asian – no foolin’!) will try to get to the bridge one nano-second before his elder. It’s all in good fun, though, and some bridges have turn-outs in the middle if two cars going in opposite directions arrive in center-span simultaneously.  I don’t understand why Suzanne keeps closing her eyes in the passenger seat …

While in the scenic town of Franz Josef, just down-stream from, well, the Glacier itself, Suzanne decided she needed a new fleece. I suggested shopping at the local St. Vincent dePaul’s store, well known back in the USA for cheap, second hand clothing. She looked at me kinda funny and didn’t even bother replying. A few minutes later, she emerged from a touristy shop with a tres chic Wild Kiwi fleece. (I’m not sure whether the liked the “Wild” part better than the warmth itself; maybe I shouldn’t ask. Young Kiwis – people, not the furry little critters with long beaks – are known for an on-the-edge, wild-and-crazy lifestyle.) 


After our glacier hike, we drove back north along the coast to the town of Hokitika for our stay at a beachfront cabin. It was quite nice, and within listening distance of crashing surf. We poured a wee glass of delicious New Zealand Pinot Noir and took a stroll on the beach before dinner. I was worried that we would be fined for drinking wine in public, but My Lovely Bride reminded me of where I grew up, and that all I had to do if a policeman came around was to weave a lot and say, “But Occifer, I am from New Orleans, and our city laws require one to drink in public.” She can be so helpful…  Again, you can see how crowded the beaches are here.

After our wine walk, we headed for t-o-w-n (sorry, I am so used to spelling that word when Rudy and Gretchen are around) for pizza. I wish I had made a photo of the pie, because it looked, well, a bit strange to me. Sorry, Sheree, but there are only two things I can fault you Kiwis on: coffee and pizza. Now let me be specific –  the pizza tasted okay – it just looked weird. Fat Pipi’s in Hokitika (you just can’t make this up – here’s a photo of the clock tower) uses cheese that tastes kinda sorta like Mozzarella, but looks bright yellow, and the pepperoni was more of a bologna-type sausage. I think it’s because of the English heritage here; when was the last time anyone saw an English-Italian restaurant?  😉  This image also reflects the ever-present roundabout. We have been on the South Island for 5 days, and have seen nary a single traffic light. Not one. Nada. Zilch. Roundabouts are the rule here, and I have to admit that they work quite well. Far better than the deadly traffic circles back home in The Villages where visitors from New Yawk and Taxachucetts ignore all the rules and cause accidents on a daily basis. Kiwis know how to make traffic flow.

We are finally over jet lag, except for my head cold. After a good sleep and a quiet night beachside, we headed back up over Arthur’s Pass for our next destination, Lake Tekapo (pronounced “teek-a-poe”). On the way, we saw these cows that some Australians had vandalized… they had painted white bands around an entire herd of all-black cows. I know this because New Zealand’s awesome national rugby team is called the “All Blacks”, and their fiercest rivals are players from Oz. It really helps to be well-read.

Finally, ornithologists and birders will appreciate this image. We stopped at a roadside cafe in Arthur’s Pass (there aren’t many options for crossing the Southern Alps) for lunch. We got two sandwiches inside sat down at an outside table to eat. I hadn’t even unwrapped my lunch when a “cheeky” giant Kea (Nestor notabilis) swooped down and tried to snatch my meal. I wanted Suzanne to smack him, but she said, “Ty, they are protected.” Turns out Kiwi farmers tried to exterminate this species of parrot because they were thought to be attacking lambs. Keas are the world’s only alpine parrot, and average about 19 inches in height and weigh up to 2.2 lbs. They are very smart, and have been observed preparing and using tools as well as munching on the rubber gaskets on car doors. Their beaks are strong enough to break through ice several inches thick. This guy was obviously ignoring the intent of the yellow sign right next to him which read, “Do Not Feed Kea”.

1 Comment

  • Anonymous
    Posted January 14, 2016 at 6:38 pm

    Ahh, the Belted Galloway or AKA "Oreo" cattle. I did ask a farmer if they had dark meat on the ends and white meat in the middle. He didn't think it was funny either


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