Yet another early departure today as we headed further down the west coast. Our first stop was the town of Hokitika, famous for Pounamu (Greenstone). Saw some pretty sweet greenstone in some of the shops, but all extremely pricey. Most of these stops I just look around and head to the local cafe for a cappuccino in order to keep me awake on the long bus rides. The next stop along the coast was the town of Ross, a historic gold rush town. Not much goin on there except for some lame photo opportunities that all of us seemed to have a good time with.
Our next stop along the way was the Bushmans center, which ended up being quite the stop off. This place was ran by a true wildnerness man, named Pete.
A legend in the advancement of New Zealand's deer farming. I previously knew the New Zealand plays a large part in the sheep and wool business, but didn't know how big a roll they played in the deer sector. Basically around 50 years ago, the government started paying people to catch deer, for food and export goods. It was a thriving business and this natureman Pete made a life out of it. At this bushman center, we learned all about the history of the business and saw a great DVD on it. It first showed some intense footage of all these deers being shot and killed all over New Zealand. Eventually though, it started making sense to keep the deer alive and to set up deer farms. This is where the government started paying for the capture of live deer. Pete and his mates developed a system of using helicopters to find deer. When they did, Pete would jump out of the helicopter and jump directly onto the deer and wrangle it down with his bare hands. You can imagine seeing this on video was pretty sweet. What a legend. After they captured the deer, they would tie it up to the helicopter line and take it back to the farm. The wrangled hundreds to thousands. They later developed the net gun so they could fire a net onto the deer to catch it instead of literrally leaping onto the deer and taking it town. It was all pretty interesting and definitely gave me some history lessons of the huge development in the deer farming business.
At the Bushmans center were also some live possums, sheep and of course deer.
We arrived in the mountain town of Franz Josef around 1pm. The town is pretty much a tourist town that caters to all the travellers seeking to make a day out on the Franz Josef Glacier, the 4th largest glacier in New Zealand, and one of the worlds three only glaciers to run down into a rainforest.
With my full day glacier hike the following day, I took this day to just calmly stroll around town and do a medium walk for views of the glacier. I went with my new German mate, Konrad, who I met on the bus. This small walk took us thru a rainforest, on a suspension bridge over the glacier river, and for views of the glacier valley.
We ended up walking quite a bit and were pretty far out from town. We hitch hiked our way back to town, marking my first New Zealand hitch hike. Were picked up by some north island Kiwis. Great people.
In the night, being Valentines Day and all, we went to the local pub and took advantage of the unbelievable happy hour 3 dollar beers. Not too lively of a seen and definitelly some slumpys out but had a good time interacting with most of the people on my bus.