Franz Josef and Hokitika: Land of Explorers

The drive from Wanaka to Franz Josef over the Haast Pass is truly extraordinary. I didn’t take any pictures, instead choosing to just soak it in without trying to document it. Kris did a GoPro timelapse video from the front of the campervan, so if it does it justice, I’ll share. Otherwise you’re just going to have to take my word for it!

I did take some pictures once we were over the pass and stopped for lunch and a hike between Xander’s naps. img_4814Our little guy is growing up so quickly!img_4827img_4845img_4861img_4886Franz Josef Glacier is a 12 km glacier in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the west coast of the South Island. The glacier itself is probably best seen by helicopter, but we weren’t going to take X-Man in a helicopter just yet, so we drove fairly close to get a look. The glacier isn’t that interesting if you’re just looking at it from afar the way we did, but the surrounding national park is worth the trip.img_4894Dense rainforest covers the mountains, which is lovely, but the best part is that there are kea all over the place. If you missed the Milford Sound post, kea are basically the rascally gangsters of the bird world. They have been known to rip pieces off cars, steal gear, and attack livestock just for the fun of it. They’re big green swaggery parrots, and I love them. I ran to catch the sunset reflecting off the snow on the mountains and missed lots of kea photo opportunities, but I can promise that there are kea pictures to come in a later post. img_4897Look how dense the rainforest is as soon as you pass the trailhead:img_4902You practically need a headlamp even in daylight because the sun can’t break through to the forest floor. The river that flows down from the glacier is a lovely glacial blue. img_4906img_4907The foot bridge across the river is bolted to the traffic bridge, and it shakes wildly every time a car goes across. img_4911img_4919img_4923Since we couldn’t do any of the more technical activities at Franz Josef, we didn’t stay long, but I’m glad we got to see the gorgeous scenery.

Next, we were headed to Punakaiki, but we broke up the drive by stopping in Hokitika. img_4939Hokitika is a cute little town that seems thoroughly comfortable with its place in the world. They must get tourist traffic because there are a ton of jade shops selling local jewelry, so we managed to find some pretty souvenirs to remind us of our time here. Several times during our trip up the West Coast, we could only look at each other and wistfully say, “People get to live here…”

Hokitika also has a number of great cafes and restaurants, but we chose Stella Cafe and Cheesery to stop in for coffee and treats before getting back on the road. It was a good choice as both were delicious and we managed to narrowly avoid getting soaked in the rain.

One of my favorite parts of our stop in Hokitika was this memorial bench commemorating Dr. Ebenezer Teichelmann, who was a surgeon, mountaineer, and photographer who lived in Hokitika in the early 20th century. img_4931img_4932The building across the street from the bench is his restored house and medical practice, which is now a B&B called Teichelmann’s.img_4934img_4935Dr. Teichelmann lived from 1859 to 1938, and is a fascinating figure. He was born in Australia, studied medicine in the UK, and moved to New Zealand during the gold rush. He served in the New Zealand medical corps as a captain during WWI, and even survived the torpedoing of the Marquette in the Aegean. He was president of the New Zealand Alpine Club and completed several first ascents and first crossings of some seriously challenging peaks and passes at a time when mountaineering gear was rudimentary. His photographs are remarkable, and convey his love of the land that he explored. He was also responsible for influencing conservation efforts and was pivotal in making several Westland areas into protected reserves. The man was a badass, and his life story captured my imagination. To see some of his photographs and read more about his remarkable life, you can check out this blog that has a few posts by the guy who wrote a biography about Teichelmann (a book that is hard to come by!).

From Hokitika, we continued up the west coast to Punakaiki, home of the pancake rocks and blowholes!

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2 thoughts on “Franz Josef and Hokitika: Land of Explorers

  1. When/if you come back as you pass through Fox Glacier there is a turn off (Cook Flat Rd) that takes you towards Gillespies beach…. a few kilometers down that road there is a wind sock where the sky divers land … you dont even have to get out of your car… just look to the left and you will see the Fox Glacier in all its glory…. as well as Mts Tasman, Mt Cook and Mt la Pereuse… … if i could post a photo i would so you can see the view – just stunning. Hope you get to see it next time you are through. great blog!


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