It rained all night at Franz Josef Glacier. We checked out the weather forecast and it was going to be heavy rain all day. We decided to just hang out and try to wait it out. The normal checkout time was 10am, so we asked the manager if we could stay till 11 or 12, and he gave us the OK. He said as long as we left before his cleaning staff at 2pm, because he did not want to clean the room himself! We took advantage of the the hotel having a laundry room, and after I bothered the other guest for coins, I managed to find someone who had change for a NZ $20 bill. We started the laundry and walked to find breakfast in pouring rain. As we turned the corner we saw the big group of motorcyclists that we had met at the lunch two days earlier. They looked completely soaked, and I hoped their gear was more waterproof than it looked. We all waved in recognition, and Frank and I took shelter in a cafe for breakfast. We went back, finished laundry, and packed up. It was still only noon, and the rain was not letting up.
The elusive Kiwi Bird
We then went to the West Coast Wildlife Center to kill more time. They take injured animals, rehabilitate them and release them back out into he wild. We learned a lot about the different native Kiwi birds and their predators. I learned about the Stoat, which I had never heard of that before, but is very similar to a weasel. The stoat is the biggest threat/predator to the Kiwi bird. The center also had a big room that simulated night time, so we had a chance to see Kiwi birds up close in a pretend habitat. We were not allowed to take pictures, so unfortunately I have no way to prove that we saw the Kiwi Birds.
We also met the Tuatara, not a lizard, but it sure looks like it. They are great at being completely still. For a long time. A really long time. I know, we waited for a really long time. Did I mention it was raining outside?
After we had our fill of all things Kiwi, we decided to hit the road even though it was still raining. We had reservations in Haast, which we originally thought we would cancel because it was not that far down the road. But we were glad to have the stop in Haast so we would have a short drive in the rain. We were heading south and the rain was heading north, but it was really coming down, and we were in heavy rain for about two hours. We stopped by Fox Glacier, but decided against the 20 min walk as it was pouring. Finally, as we got closer to Haast the rain stopped and the sky cleared.
We made a stop at the Salmon Farm and cafe, to take a stretch and snack break. I was cold and damp, and not entirely happy, but the rain seemed to be done. The kitchen had just closed, so we had to settle for a snack and drink. Frank tried the summer fruit blend homemade tea, and he said it was the best tea he had ever had. We took a look at the Salmon tanks from the elevated walkway, before continuing on to Haast.
We checked into the Wliderness Adventure Motel, which was mainly a backpackers motel. When I had booked a while ago, the only thing they had left was a shared room with bunk beds, so we had to share a room with complete strangers. Their stuff was already there, but they were not…so hopefully they would be cool. Our next matter of business was dinner at the local bar called the Hard Antler. I was starving, and they had a buffet! Score!! By the time we finished eating it was 7:30pm and we found out that a band was coming to play at 8pm. We figured we might as well hang out and see if they were any good. Soon a couple from Germany asked if they could join us at our table. We enjoyed chatting with Sebastian and Doro about their vacation. They were traveling around New Zealand for five weeks in a camper van. 8pm came and went and there was no band, however little by little the place started to fill up. Two guys finally showed up, with a guitar, electric mandolin, and an electric foot drum pad thing a ma jig. Within minutes that place started jumping, and the rest of the night everyone was out on the small dance floor dancing the night away until it was time to ring in the New Year. Those two guys did an amazing job of playing a long list of well known songs that almost everyone knew and sang along to. We learned a new song, that EVERYONE sang, and I don’t know why we had never heard this before, but it is going to be added to our music collection for sure. Here is the link to the NSFW song
Happy New Year in Haast
We didn’t take many pictures today due to the rain, but it was still a memorable day. We celebrated the start of 2018 before most of the world, with 100 strangers, and stayed up really late. We then walked back to our hotel while looking up at the stars and the Southern Cross, and locals shooting off fireworks, as our nighttime display in the Southern Hemisphere. Life is good.