After leaving Wanaka we drove to the West coast to the villages of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef. The main attractions here being the glaciers! When we arrived the weather was having a shocking time. We headed first to Fox glacier and walked down to the look out but the visability was so bad that we couldn't even see 100m in front of us and the bad conditions meant that they closed the path that leads up to the glacier face. We also missed the glacier in Torres del Paine, Patagonia and were beginning to think that we just weren't meant to see one.
We headed to the backpackers hostel, which was a really lovely hostel complete with fire and hot jacuzzi, where we proceeded to spend the afternoon whilst the weather played out its tantrum. We had hoped to watch the Luna eclipse that was happening this evening, however that didn't happen. The next morning the rain had cleared and although it was still slightly cloudy, visibility was improved. We took our chances this time with Franz Josef. We were able to walk along the path to the glacier and finally(!) we caught a glimpse of a glacier. THe glacier has retreated so much over the years that you can almost see it edging its way back. We enjoyed seeing the glacier so much that we then drove to a second lookout point some kilometers away for a second view. Glaciers are awesome. We were going to take a guided trip out onto the ice but weren't sure it was worth it with the rain expected imminently and we were pretty chuffed with just seeing it.
That afternoon we drove up to Arthur's pass, a village settled at nearly 1000m high. The road itself is also called Arthur's pass and connects the east to the west coast by going up over the mountain range. It was pretty chilly up there and we chose to stay in one of the DOC (Department of Conservation) campsites, which was basic but had shelter for us to make some food. After a short walk to a 131m waterfall and a few drinks in the only bar in town, open late (8pm) we headed back to camp where we decided it was too cold for the tent and spent out first night in the car. We had to do it once and it was surprisingly not that uncomfortable.
The next morning the clouds had come in again and we took a short 8km walk along the path and through the trees. Shortly after we left Arthur's pass and headed back to the west coast. We arrived in Greymouth, where the weather had deteriorated. There were weather warnings when we arrived and winds of 150km. After grabbing some lunch and a hot drink we went to check out the situation with Tourist Information. We wanted to head up to the Pancake rocks, however the road was closed. Subsequently many other roads leading out of Greymouth were also closed. So we took the only one open and headed to Nelson. The drive was actually OK and it seemed we were headed away from the worst of it, but as soon as we arrived in Nelson, back on the coast the winds picked up and the rain too. We found a cabin for the evening and holed up there to see what the next day would bring.