I was up early this morning and own to the local tour shop where I donned my wet gear, hiking boots and staff for the trek up to the base of the glacier. The walk was about 1-2 kilometres along a morrain before we got to the actual base of the glacier itself. The weather was bloody awful with driving rain which made it all the more surreal, given that we were about to commence a trek of about an hour onto the ice of the glacier. The rain had the effect of smoothing some of the icy surface making it slippery and potentially dangerous, particularly when a few of us walked down into a crevasse, with a length of rope being our only lifeline back up again. I had hoped to be able to do a helicopter ride further up onto the glacier but the inclement weather meant that visibility was way too low to allow a landing. Wet, tired but strangely exhilarated a few hours later, I stepped back into my 4X4 for the 250 km drive up along the west coast to Punakaiki. Punakaiki is famous for just one thing — the pancake rocks. It’s New Zealand’s answer to the Giant’s Causeway but instead of nature having fused the rocks into hexagonal columns of stone, here they have been left as huge stacks of flat sections of rock, piled high right at the waters’ edge — hence the name. The nearest accommodation I could find was in a place called Barrytown, approximately 20 minutes drive along the same stretch of coastline. Because I am travelling in off season, not a lot of places are open at this time of year so I was direct to the Punakaiki Tavern where I ordered a dish called the Fisherman’s Feast whose ingredients included octopus, squid, mussels, clams, prawns, oysters and a whole symphony of other seafood. This tavern/bistro is located less than one kilometer from the sea. My meal arrived with all of the above ingredients coated in breadcrumbs and deep-fried! Can you imagine — a deep fried, breaded oyster! Come on New Zealand — you can do a whole lot better than that! This is not 1970. It’s 2011 for Gods’ sake!
The art of getting a quote that is both competitive in price and relevant to your needs starts with gathering all the right information about what you want to do (or think you want to do!).