West Coast Blast

Today I had quite a long bike journey ahead of me. Starting in Westport my destination was Franz Josef, the town that serves all the walkers and tours visiting the glacier. I had been told that this glacier was nothing on the ones in America, but as I’ve never seen a glacier before, I was looking forward to it.

The road out of Westport was pretty straight and boring. There are just miles and miles of grass pasture land for smelly cows. Not that I’d ever admit to breaking the speed limit, but with a straight, empty, well surfaced road stretching out ahead of you, now it’s as good a time as any to say I’ve seen 200kph on a bike… It gets a bit hairy. The bike wanted to keep going but that was all I was willing to do, whenever it was, I forget.

The long straights ran in parallel to the train line. Again, completely devoid of locomotive action, I was a little disappointed. They are only broken up intermittently by tiny towns that serve only the local area with little more than a supermarket and a petrol station. After a few servings of this pattern some curvy coast roads opened up for my entertainment.

The changeable road surface and tight twists are a really fun game. See how hard you want to ride before a surprise lorry or slow camper come around the corner.

I stopped at a small lake for lunch. My lunches are mainly consisting of bread and cheese with an apple or orange thrown in for vitamins. While scoffing my megre meal, I could hear some large, unbaffled engines approaching at great speed. They were coming from sports car sized speed boats, that I later found out to be jet boats. These seem to be a very popular method of spending money in exchange for adrenalin. They are ludicrously fast, and designed to spin on the spot for maneuverability as they are raced up tight rocky gorges. These were skipping across the lake at what looked like mach 1. I found out from the proud owner that they usually have lazy V8 engines in them but his one had a tuned up V6 from a Nissan 350Z sports car. They had just been out for a blast, as I would on the bike, except there are no speed limits on the water… I can see the appeal.

When I rolled into Franz I was earlier than I thought I would be. The long ride had made me stiff in the neck so I went for a walk around the town. I had seen a hot pools spa advertised so took my gear with me on the off chance it was worth it. When I found the place, it was quite busy so I didn’t bother the receptionist and headed straight in. No one stopped me. It was only later I found out you had to pay an entry fee. I spent a wonderfully relaxing couple hours floating around in the warm waters. It would have been nice to have someone to chat with.

I got back to the hostel and enjoyed a few cold beers, chatting with the others. We were slowly being eaten by flying demons so lit a fire in the hope the smoke would keep them at bay. It sort of worked in so much as it probably burnt them out of the air. It was so large and hot at one point you just couldn’t go near it.