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Water Table Claims ‘No Vacancy’

This is the perfect place to retire as a meteorologist.  40% chance of rain, partly cloudy.  This is my forecast for the next 365 days, tune in next year.  In fact, the South Island’s West Coast is lashed with rain almost year round at a predictable rate. 

Detour Ahead Swelled River  Caution

40%?  Try 72+ hours of straight precipitation.  With the unrelenting rain pouring from the gray sky for three days, the Kiwi soil could absorb no more.  The water table claimed ‘no vacancy’ as fields turned to swamps and roads became streams.  At one such washout along the two-lane highway, we watched an ambulance push a helplessly stalled station wagon from a watery grave.  Creek banks failed to corral the onslaught of water as tall trees were reduced to mere shrubs due to the height of the rushing brown tide.  It was a remarkable sight one moment and worrisome the next.  But the merciless clouds above could not care less.

Cape Foulwind Cliffs Cape Foulwind Cape Foulwind Sky

Regardless, we took in the coastline at Cape Foulwind watching seal pups bark and splash.  The Cape is just one of many spots along the coast blessed with staggering cliffs being pounded by the Tasman Sea.  Further South, we directed Bazils onto a deserted beach at Dolomite Point and made a luxurious lunch of ramen noodles and peanut butter sandwiches.  The sea was angry on this day.  With the wind howling, rain falling horizontally, and waves crashing like the equity market on Black Friday, the spectacle was viewed from our dry campervan bed.  As Ash watched, I dawned my GoLite rain jacket and went in for a closer look at the surf.  Bad idea.  Driving in just boxers as my “go to” shorts dried in the back was not my cup of tea.  Though Ash got a good laugh.  Ha ha. 

Dolomite Point Waves Dolomite Point Dolomite Point Waves and More Waves

Still motoring South, we reached the much talked about Pancake Rocks.  How this geological phenomenon came to be is still unexplained.  Once again, the parkas were deployed.  In addition to the rocks that begged for Mrs. Buttersworth, there are several blowholes that fiercely propel water upwards at high tide.  Sadly, we missed the nature show by a few hours.  It was a quick stop as the weather was unrelenting, particularly the wind.  Wet again.

Pancake Rocks Blowhole Forced Smile, Obviously

Southbound once more, hoping the intensity of the rain hadn’t decimated the Franz Joseph Glacier.  Our pace had slowed considerably because many of the roads developed a phobia of rainwater management.  Having talked with fellow travelers who had experienced both the Kiwi and Argentinian glaciers, our expectations were tempered.  But any glacier is an incredible site and the controversy surrounding these “advancing” masses of ancient ice piqued our interest.  To our delight, the observation point of Franz Joseph was a mere fifteen minute hike through dense forest.  We marveled at the crawling body of ice and watched trekkers the size of ants traverse the jagged surface.  Leaving the car park en route to Fox Glacier, we picked up our first of many hitchhikers, none of which turned out to be calculating killers.

Franz Josef Glacier Glacial River Franz Josef Glacier

If Finnish Chris and I were having a wet t-shirt contest, he won hands down.  After hiking New Zealand’s Southern Alps for four days, we should have wrung him out and created a profitable bottled water business.  Ash even offered Chris one of her prized cookies from the Makana Chocolate Factory.  Once again, the point of observation was a quick walk.  Though the lion’s share of Fox Glacier is obstructed due to a pesky mountain, one can still admire its beauty.  Different from Franz Joseph, Fox Glacier has a wide glacial stream that captured out attention.  Its wild nature keeps the National Park staff busy as it changes path frequently and landslides only frustrate the situation.  The cement colored water carried large chunks of ice downstream while smooth rocks fought to hold on.

Glacial Ice River Ashley's Pseudo Engagement Ring Cold As Ice  

Ash thought better of my idea to preserve a piece of glacial ice in Bazils’ fridge and with that we drove to New Zealand’s most photographed inland body of water, Lake Matheson.  Has the rain been mentioned?  The hiking around this rather small lake was sensational, but Mother Nature ruined any hope of snow-capped mountain reflections on the still water.  I was bummed and fed up with the rain, though no amount of complaining would usher in blue clear skies.

Lake Matheson Hike Lake Matheson... Supposed to Have Sweet Reflection Sad Face

So my daily forecast of 40% chance of showers would have suffered under the actual conditions.  It seems meteorology won’t pave our way into the golden years. 

- Greg and Ash

Learn From Our Footsteps:

1) Having had an unforgettable journey around the incredible glaciers of Argentina Patagonia (,, we opted to save money and not take a trek onto Franz Joseph or Fox Glaciers.  In our judgment, most glacier day-trips are similar and unless a lengthy period of time has passed since your last icy adventure, your money is better spent elsewhere.
2) When driving over a section of road turned stream be sure to turn off your automobile’s HVAC.  The air intake pipe associated with this system can suck in water thereby flooding your engine and drowning your budget.  This lesson courtesy of our friend, The Dog, who flooded his family’s BMW convertible while crossing an inundated dip in Cincinnati.

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