Drive to Franz Josef
Franz Josef Travel Blog› entry 70 of 206 › view all entries
I was meant to get up and do bone carving this morning but sadly I hadn't set an alarm and I woke up still drunk about 20 mins late and the bloke had already been and gone. So we mooched around all morning and enjoyed our unusually late check-out time of midday. After that we continued on the west coast road, which eventually turns into the Glacier Highway, stopping only to buy food, stop at a river and buy Greenstone, seeing as the west coast is the Greenstone (or Jade) region of New Zealand. Only 5 Maori familes are permitted to sell it and there are 3 types. The most expensive is flecked with black, and there are a number of popular designs including whale tail, fish hook and Tanifer.
So the legend has it that the Taniwha (pronounced tanifah) is a river demon; a taniwha was in love with the chief's wife and kidnapped her. To avoid being caught he dived in the river and hid, not realising that humans cannot breathe under water and so the chief's wide died. The chief pursued the tanifer up and down the country in the riverways and finally trapped him in lake Tai Poutini. While he decided what to do with the taniwha, the chief grieved the loss of his wife and the tears he cried stained the Greenstone with the black flecks. He then decided to curse the taniwha so that he could never be released from the river until the last piece of Greenstone was about to leave New Zealand, whereby the curse would lift and the tanifer would have to go and collect all the pieces together again and bring them back.
The bridges over many of the rivers are extremely narrow and there is room for one vehicle only going in either direction. One particular bridge also passes very close to a rock face and the swing into the bridge means it has earned the name 'The Can Opener' as so many bus drivers have sheared their buses trying to enter the bridge at the wrong angle. The river we stopped at was an amazing blue colour, caused by the fine precipitation of minerals in the water. Also there is much gold in the water and in the mud around but it is extremely fine, as much New Zealand gold is. Where the minerals flow into the sea there are stunning algal blooms. We passed through a few old gold mining towns too; towns which had once supported 20,000 people, but which now are home to only 60, such as the town of Ross.
We arrived finally at Franz Josef and checked into the Rainforest Retreat, our home for the next couple of days. We are walking up the glacier tomorrow on a 7hr trek so we spent the evening preparing lunches, packing day bags and getting our things in order.