Woke up after yesterday’s torrential ride still feeling a little cold, a little damp and fairly sore. Fortunately, today’s agenda for all but two masochistic souls in our group was a day off the bicycle, mostly on some fairly relaxed hikes (more like walks). I was happy to take a day off the saddle and relax a bit, much to the unadulterated joy of my tail bone and shoulders. Today was more about amazing scenery than grueling riding — it was Saturday after all.
When I rode in last night, I was in the midst of a lashing rain storm, so I really could not see what was around me at the lodge. I woke up this morning and the sun had the audacity to poke it’s head through. It was at this moment that I had the lightbulb moment as to why people like the west coast of New Zealand. What makes the geologic, meteorologic and habitats so interesting on this side of the island is that the mountain range that travels from North to South is very close to the Tasmin Sea on the west coast. Winds blow off the Tasmin packed with moisture which dumps unholy amounts of rain, particularly as you move south on the island. These winds and rain quickly encounter the mountain range which in turn creates the spectacular glaciers for which New Zealand is known. As a result, I could walk outside my room near the base of the Franz Josef glacier and see the following: fern trees and ice.
Franz Josef ( where I was lsat night) and Fox (where I am tonight) are the two best known glaciers in New Zealand. The reason for this is that they are both close to the coast, very big and you can see the glacial ice without being in flight. In fact, I was scheduled to go on a helicopter tour of the glaciers, but it was unfortunately cancelled due to today’s rapidly shifting weather. Instead, we took a 90 minute hike to the base of the glacier where we could at least get a peak at the famous blue ice.
From here, it was a leisurely lunch in the town of Franz Josef and then a transfer to Fox about 30 km away. Once there, we went on another 90 minute walk around a beautiful little lake with the pastures and mountains standing beautifully in the backdrop.
One observation about this part of New Zealand is that the weather is pretty wild. Over the course of the past 10 hours, I have seen the sun come out about 8 different times only to be rapidly replaced by rain clouds and in several cases hail. It doesn’t necessarily make for good biking, but it is impressive to see weather systems change this fast.
I’m back on the saddle tomorrow for what looks like a nice 55 mile ride. Onward.