West Coast Fail


Now, I know what you’re thinking. “Wow, Alyssa hasn’t written a blog post in three days! She must be way too busy doing amazing New Zealand-y things to write.” Unfortunately, that isn’t exactly the case.

Let’s see, I think the last time I checked in was Thanksgiving. We were in Franz Josef, and we were booked on a heli-hike of the glacier for the next day, where a helicopter would fly us onto the glacier and we would get to hike around and see blue ice and other cool stuff.

Well, we checked out of the hostel in the morning and walked to the tour place only to discover that our trip had been cancelled due to a cloud over the glacier, because it wasn’t safe for the helicopters to fly. We decided we had enough flexibility in our itinerary to stay in town a little longer, so we said we’d check back in that afternoon to see if we could get on a later tour. Then the afternoon tours were cancelled, and we decided to book another night at the Franz Josef hostel, cancel our booking at the hostel in Hokitika (our next stop), and try to get on the heli-hike the following morning. 

The rest of the day was actually pretty enjoyable – the Franz Josef YHA has a really cozy living room with a fire and free, fast WiFi, so Sarah and I were pretty content just hanging out there all day. I also saw the cat from the parking lot roaming the hallway of the hostel, so I picked it up and brought it in the living room to sit on my lap. And we had hot chocolate and ice cream. Pretty much heaven.

We were hopeful when we woke up the next morning, because the sky was blue (in places) and it wasn’t raining, but apparently the low cloud was still over the glacier, so they cancelled the tour yet again. We really couldn’t hang around town any longer waiting for the weather to cooperate, so we checked out of the hostel again and spent the rest of the day driving up the coast to Punakaiki.

We were both pretty bummed about not getting to do the heli-hike, because the Franz Josef glacier was one of our biggest destinations on the South Island and the main reason we decided to go up the west coast instead of across Arthur’s Pass or up the east coast. Then we couldn’t find anywhere to heat up our leftovers for lunch in Hokitika and we got lost several times, and it pretty much rained the entire drive, and the scenery wasn’t that great, so we were both kind of done by the time we got to our hostel in Punakaiki. Luckily, there were two cats and some wekas (they’re a type of bird) roaming the hostel grounds to cheer us up, and the hostel itself was pretty cool.



Instead of one building, it was a collection of different houses with gravel paths through a really pretty jungle between them, and the kitchen was like a normal homey house kitchen instead of a huge industrial hostel kitchen. And the house we were staying in had a loft with three mattresses in it, which Sarah and I claimed.


Path to our house


After finally getting to eat our leftovers, we felt much better, and even though it was still raining, we drove into town to see the blow hole and pancake rocks, which are the main tourist attraction in Punakaiki. They were cool and worth seeing, but it was cold and rainy and windy, so after spending about half an hour walking around the trail to see them, we were ready to be inside.



But when we got back, we snuggled up in our loft with my purple fuzzy blanket and some hot chocolate, and watched 27 Dresses on my laptop (so glad I brought that DVD with me!). So, kind of a bleh day, but not a bad end.

The next morning we were going to walk down to the beach just to see it before starting our relatively long drive to Picton for our ferry to the North Island, but it was still raining when we got up, and we ended up having to deal with a bit of a rental car situation and ran out of time. Apparently the dates for our rentals got messed up somehow, so we were supposed to have dropped off our first car and picked up our second car the night before, instead of that night. This probably would’ve been relatively easy to straighten out if we had a reliable phone, but neither of us bought cell plans in NZ, so we had to buy a calling card from the hostel and use their landline to call the rental company. But then we had to get on the road so we wouldn’t be late for our ferry, but we also had to call the rental company back on the way, but we couldn’t make the calling card work, so we had to pull over multiple times to try and find a phone, and finally some nice people at a diner let us use their phone, and we got things mostly cleared up, but we were still worried about being charged fees for the car mix-up, and it was STILL RAINING, and then we think we left the calling card at the diner, so we hoped we wouldn’t need it again. And I know that was the worst run-on sentence in history, but it’s pretty representative of our day. Kind of hectic.

BUT. We made it to Picton on time, dropped the car off no problem, and they just charged us for the extra day we had the car (no fees – yay!). We were really early for the ferry so we had time to eat dinner, and the ferry ride was actually really relaxing. Sarah and I just talked most of the time, and I didn’t feel seasick at all, and we got hot chips (aka french fries), which were delicious.


And our new rental was right at the ferry terminal when we got to the other side, and even though driving in Wellington was ridiculous and we got very lost, we eventually made it to the hostel and got to go to sleep. So again, not the best day ever, but everything worked out.

And that brings us to today! We woke up in Wellington planning to do one of two 2-hour hikes in the area, but it was still. raining. So instead we went grocery shopping, ambled around the Te Papa museum for a bit, drove to the Mount Victoria lookout (which wasn’t quite as pretty as we were expecting!), and then headed out of Wellington towards National Park.

It still sprinkled occasionally on the drive today, but the weather was definitely not as bad as it had been the past few days. Also, the scenery was pretty again! Nowhere near the caliber of Milford Road or Queenstown and Wanaka, but there was lots of hilly, grassy sheep pasture and a few mountains. We also heard Santa Baby on the radio, which was weird. I don’t think it really feels like the holiday season to either of us yet.

Things went a little downhill again when we finally got to the National Park hostel because we couldn’t figure out the shuttle service for the Tongariro Crossing in the morning, and the hostel didn’t have a phone we could use so we had to walk to a gas station, and it was actually sleeting a little bit, and the hostel here isn’t very cozy or nice, and we both started feeling really unprepared for the hike tomorrow (it will take us all day; pretty intense!). But I think we have everything straightened out now, and I at least have leftovers for three days, and that feels good. And now I think we’re both just going to turn in early, and hopefully our hike tomorrow goes well! I’ll letcha know 🙂

P.S. Sorry for the lack of pictures! No time to upload them right now; I might add some later though. But I at least wanted to let my family know what’s going on! And that I’m still alive and everything.


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