The morning was dull, grey and damp. Thick cloud shrouded the hills surrounding Reefton. We had considered taking a 40 minute walk along the river, but since the view was spoiled by the weather (and we didn’t fancy spending the rest of the day in damp clothes), we decided against and headed north for the spectacular Buller Gorge.

The Gorge, predictably, was also partly obscured by low cloud, but what we could see was still magnificent in its way. We drove on, avoiding Westport, which our guide book described as “the West Coast’s most dispiriting town …” But, in spite of the (now heavy) rain, we couldn’t resist a stop at Punakaiki to see the famous ‘Pancake Rocks’ and blow-holes. We also read that a colony of little blue penguins inhabited Truman Beach, so we trudged the short path down to the stony shore. Sadly, the penguins were not at home!

The blow-holes at Punakaiki were not ‘performing’ either, as the tide was too low when we arrived. (When the water is higher, and in all but calm conditions, spouts of water erupt like geysers through holes in the rock – sometimes travelling up to 20m.) It may have been the wet weather, but we weren’t overly enthused by the black Pancake Rocks, though they were certainly unusual. (The rocks are so named because they are said to resemble stacks of pancakes. ) Having failed to get a decent picture of either the rocks or the blow-holes, we squelched into the Wild Coast Café for lunch, and took advantage of their Internet connection to check our e-mail.

We stopped for the night at Franz Joseph Glacier, hoping that the weather would clear by morning, and we would get a good view of the glacier itself. As we ate dinner in the Blue Ice (unfortunate name) Café, the wind and rain continued to howl outside. We spent an uncomfortably cold and sleepless night in the van, as the power lead trip had malfunctioned leaving us without electricity for the second night in a row.