Day 8: Up the west coast from Makarora to Punakaiki
In the morning we continued west to the coast and then up north again. It was raining heavily (and I mean reeeally heavily) all day, which was a shame because we think there could have been some very scenic spots along the way otherwise. We passed near the Fox and then Franz Josef Glaciers and tried to visit these. But the road to the first was washed away by mudslides, and the second proved not worth visiting, particularly in the heavy downpour. We did brave the rain and hike a short way to a view point in only to be quite disappointed. After having seen glaciers in Alaska and on Mt. Rainier, this was not all that impressive. However, this is supposed to be the only two glaciers in the world that descend this far down to sea level and end in a rainforest. Given the weather, we did not go the rest of the way to see the glacier up close and we drove up further north along the coast.
It kept raining and raining, but it was a very beautiful lush green drive, sometimes through rainforest, sometimes along the sea shore. Just as we reached Punakaiki, the sun finally came out again. Punakaiki is known for its “pancake rocks”, sea cliff formations that look like tall stacks of pancakes. A cliff walkway meanders through, and we got some nice sunshine photos there. Under close observation from a curious weka (kiwi-like bird), we pitched our tent at the local campground, right near the shore, went for a stroll on the beach, had dinner at the local pub, and then fell asleep to the sound of the waves — and more rain. Our little tent held up quite nicely though!