happy & healthy abroad: west coast road trip

Alas, here it is September 6th, and I have still yet to finish my travel series on New Zealand. I suppose that's what happens when I don't have a set schedule, I don't get anything done. Now that school has started back up again (today is my LAST first day of my undergrad education, yikes!) I will be much better about keeping up with my blog, at least that is my goal. So let's rewind to July, when I was still in New Zealand. In the last Happy & Healthy Abroad post, I left off with moving on from the southern part of the South Island to the West Coast region...

After spending the night in a tiny tiny village by the name of Haast that only had wifi via satellite, my friend Nathan and I woke up early to make it to the Copland Track where we would hike 12 miles to the Welcome Flat Hut. It took us about 5.5 hours to hike up the valley and the trail was absolutely gorgeous. Most of the trail ran along a glacial river who's waters were an icy blue color I had never seen before. The trail was mostly covered by a thick forest with lots of varying terrain with boulders, rocks, and stream crossings. If a hiking trail could be fun (which it can), the Copland Track was. By the time we reached the hut, I was experiencing some major leg burn-out and was ready to sit down for a very very long time. The hut was fully operational, despite it being winter in NZ and we were welcomed by Emma, the friendly hut warden. There were a handful of people staying in the hut that night so it was a cool community feeling; everyone was cooking dinner on their little camp stoves and chatting with each other. Quite the different vibe from the Lake Mackenzie hut (see previous post). I felt lucky and blessed to be there doing what I was doing. My friend and I were able to make friends with a couple of kiwi hikers who were just taking a "lazy" weekend trip. Ha, I was so envious of their ability to just casually go hiking any weekend they wanted in a crazy and beautiful area that's practically in their backyard.

The next morning, we did the usual routine: pack up, eat breakfast, and hike back out to the car. Once we emerged from the bush, we traveled on to Franz Josef to check out a glacier not too far from the highway. That night we camped out at the MacDonald/Otto Creek campsite, just 10  minutes north of the Franz Josef Village. We woke up the next morning to an extremely frosty outdoors- it was so cold! That was the first time during the trip that I began to wish for a nice and warm cozy bed. We decided to take a much needed recharge at the hostel in town, but not before we completed a 3.5 hour day hike, on Robert's Point track, up the valley to get a view of the Franz Josef Glacier. The trail was challenging and fun with lots of big boulders and exposed rock-faces. The view of the glacier was totally awesome!

After Franz Josef, we continued north up the coast to Punakaiki to see the Pancake Rocks & Blowholes and the Porarari River. The landscape changed drastically from Franz Josef to Punakaiki, the mountains became greener and sloped gently down to the ocean. We began to see some cool rock formations just off the coast as we drew near to our next destination. The day turned into a more relaxed and "touristy" day- taking frequent stops to explore rocks, caverns, and take a relaxed walk along the river. The Porarari River looked like something out of pre-historic times. Along the banks is a subtropical rainforest with lots of Naiku (NZ's only native palm), ferns and tree ferns, cabbage trees, and vines. There were steep cliffs along both sides of the river. It was a nice change from our fast-paced, challenging 2-day hikes that we had been doing.

Each day was a new adventure and I was never quite sure what it would bring. Nathan and I planned our trip as we went (normally not my style), forcing me to stay in the present moment and appreciate what was around me. As we drew closer and closer to the end of our trip, however, it became particularly hard not to think of going home, seeing friends and family, and wishing for the comforts of home. Yet, we still had about a week left on the South Island where we would take a four-day trip in Abel Tasman National Park, visit the artsy town of Nelson, and more- details to be revealed in the next post!