Hopping back on the Stray bus we bumped into Daniel - an English guy who had been with us on the East Bro tour! Turns out he'd be with us until he hopped off at Franz Josef at the end of the week. Our driver for this Stray-cation was Kookie, an Irish guy who was getting citizenship in New Zealand. He was a super chilled-out entertaining driver. Our accommodation at Marahau was superb - we had a double room/cabin for the same price as a dorm bed. Though this Stray-cation we learnt that whatever prices Kookie gave us, you had to add one or two dollars onto the price when you arrived, because it seemed they had upped their prices - typical!
Our first full day at the Abel Tasman was forecast to rain, but when we woke up it was just humid and overcast, so we decided to chance a walk. We hadn't booked a kayak as we didn't want to be in the middle of the ocean if the weather turned bad, and it was a good job we didn't! We set off at 10am to do a 4hr return walk along part of the famous Abel Tasman Coastal Track - a walk which could take you a total of 3-4 days if you camped along the way. We stopped off at idylic little bays along the way and had lunch on a beautiful beach. Even though it was overcast we still glimpsed the sun occasionally and along with it, a hint of those turquoise waters and golden sands. The walk was long but pretty but around 1pm we decided to head back just in case those forecast rain clouds hit. Lucky we did, because exactly 10mins after we returned at exactly 3pm when it was forecast...the rain hit! And boy did it hit! Solid, torrential rain which lasted a good 8-9 hours! The campsite where we were staying was flooded in no time, poor campers came in the evening and tried to pitch their tents in ankle deep water...so most slept in their cars! Needless to say the afternoon was a right off so we all just stayed in our rooms until it was BURGER TIME!
The next day we left at 8.30am to Westport, and it rained from 8am, until we got to Westport at around 3pm. We did a short walk along the coast while waiting for the surfers and our check-in time at the hostel. We saw seals and had a great time chatting, getting to know some more people on our bus. That evening some people went on a brewery tour but most of us decided to just chill in the really nice hostel and get to know each other. Our good friends on this bus became Zuzanna from the Czech Republic, Verena; Germany, Sergei; USA, Lockie; Australia, Daniel; UK, Caoimhe and Blaithnaid; Ireland, and of course Kookie our driver!
Now, at Franz Josef Glacier we had booked an Ice Explorer activity as this, along with Fox Glacier, are two of the fastest receding and easily accessible glaciers in the world and New Zealand. They are also the most unique Glaciers in the world, being two of the only three Glaciers in the world bound by rainforest and coastline. So of course, most of us wanted to see these babies and climb on them! So we checked into the glacier heli-hike company and were given a talk about our heli-hike - but they could only give us a 50/50 chance of going. Basically, if the glacier is covered in cloud, it's deemed unsafe for the helicopters to land. So far they had called off 5 days of their tours, and it seemed our luck wasn't great, as there wasn't a great chance it would be clear tomorrow morning. We got to the hostel we were staying at - the rainforest retreat and their pizza deal (all you can eat pizza - it keeps coming til you say stop), was full - so no one could have that! (Bloody Kiwi Experience taking all the spaces!) Another piece of bad luck had struck! That evening we all had a few drinks in the Rainforest retreat bar where we were staying and the guys Lockie and Sergei had decided to dress as ladies that night, so that was pretty entertaining and they were very convincing!
The next morning our Ice Explorer was scheduled for 8.45am so we awoke with fresh hopes - we had all heard a helicopter take off this morning and the sky was semi-clear! Plus the 8am group we hadn't seen come back yet - that had to mean they had taken off didn't it? Nope. We were so wrong. Upon entering the building a girl regretted to inform us that all of the mornings tours had been cancelled, the next tour was the afternoon slots and it wasn't yet confirmed if they were cancelled. Our best bet? To try and nab a spot on the afternoon slots. We got to the front desk...all the afternoon slots were full - gahhhhh! So we got put on the wait list and had to wait around until we were told someone wasn't showing up - fat chance! But at 10am we were told two spaces were available for the midday tour - yay! We then had to wait around until midday to see whether it would go ahead, but the clouds were beginning to hide the glacier, and rain was forecast for later that day, which meant our hopes were slimming. We were told that the pilots needed a four hour window of good weather to be able to take off, so we basically knew it would be cancelled but had to wait until 11.55am to be told, yep, all the afternoon ones were being cancelled and they would probably be cancelling for the next 5 days...so there wasn't even a chance we could stay longer to try to do it. So, bad luck strikes again!
The only good thing was that we have a voucher that is valid for one year, so we can come back at anytime and do it, the only bad thing was that we had wasted two nights of expensive accommodation and would have to waste another two to come back someday and do it....grrrr. We will have to make sure we pick two awesome sunny days!
So the rest of the day we just chilled, sat in the hostel hot tub (the largest one in New Zealand), and then went for drinks with the crew again in the evening. It was Daniels last evening with us so I had challenged him to, during his time in New Zealand A. grow a beard for the ladies, B. Do a skydive and C. a canyon swing - just to challenge himself to something daring and new - so how's it going so far Daniel?! Still got that beard I hope for people like 'Big nipples' to swoon over?! haha. We also all debated over the two Hong Kongese people who had boarded our bus in Greymouth as to whether one was a male or a female...it's to be confirmed!
The next day was another early morning for our journey down to Wanaka. It was also me and Pierrick's anniversary! We said our goodbyes to Daniel and headed to Matheson Lake (Mirror lake) where we did a nice morning walk before the rain set in. However the clouds hid the amazing snow-capped mountains that were supposed to be mirrored in the lake - boo. We were also supposed to stop for lunch at a lovely beach - weather said no. Also sandfly swarm said no - I'm going to eat you all alive!
So instead we had lunch on the bus and when the weather cleared up, went for a walk to the blue pools in the Haarst Valley within Mount Aspiring National Park. They really were blue!
Then we hit up Wanaka - our final destination as we were hopping off the bus here. We had one more thing that we all really wanted to do - a boat cruise round Lake Wanaka, watching the sunset, with 3 free drinks and a BBQ...but guess what?! It was too windy, so they cancelled it - GAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!
So instead we all just had the BBQ which was pretty shit - a cold potato, salad and a tiny burger and one sausage, oh and a free drink - all for $12! Never again Base Hostels - you really aren't that great! The night was good but it wasn't the party that everyone wanted - in fact it was dead in the bar, so we said our goodbyes around 11pm.
We had a skydive booked for Wanaka but again the weather forecast was shit, and we had paid alot for the view so there's no point doing it when it's cloudy, so that's another thing we'd have to come back and do - grrrr! Instead we just walked around Wanaka for a couple of days, biding time until our next WWOOFing place in Roxburgh, Central Otago on Monday. We had a fantastic curry for our belated anniversary meal and we spent one night and one day in Cromwell, where our host Fay, would pick us up. The hostel in Cromwell was one of the best I have ever stayed in - an old converted medical centre, it was a small and cosy hostel. During the day in Cromwell we went for a walk down to the heritage centre, the lake and the town centre - there really isn't much to do in Cromwell! Then we met Fay. Our bad weather lasted well into the next week, but it gets better, and we do eventually get to do at least one of our activities while WWOOFing, with the prospects of some casual work to save a few pennies - with bad luck comes good they say? Hopefully that will be my next blog post!