Quad Biking in Franz Josef

Call us lucky, or maybe we are just foolish, but the last few times we have gone away, we haven’t taken wet weather motorbike gear. That’s pretty risky for the West Coast.

Today we have woken up to a wild, wet storm. But it’s not a riding day, so maybe we are lucky. Our room windows look out into bush and I am enjoying watching the storm from the warmth and comfort of our bed.

Today we are booked in for a Fox Glacier Nature Walk and Lake Matheson Walk with Glacier Valley Eco Tours. Unfortunately, due to weather, DOC has closed the Fox Glacier Track. And Lake Matheson, well, that’s famous for being a fabulous example of a mirror lake, but in this weather, it wouldn’t be worth viewing. So sadly, our tour today has been cancelled.

Not wanting to spend all day sitting in our room, I jump on line and have a quick look for some suitable wet weather activities. There is the Kiwi Center (slightly regret not visiting here) but we do decide to go quad biking. We have done quad biking before in terrible weather and it was super fun. The rain means big puddles to splash through and actually, it’s meant to be way better in the rain. When it’s dry, you just end up getting covered in dust!

The tour is not until the afternoon, so we decide to venture out in search of some breakfast. The power has gone out so we are not sure if anything will be open. We are hoping at least one place has a generator. We are in luck, SnakeBite Brewery obvously has a generator, the power outage hasn’t effected them. They are packed and serving up hot, delicious looking food. Breakfast sorted.

There are a lot of delectable looking treats in the cabinets, but I must resist. I almost don’t fit my motorbike jeans anymore! Sweet treats aside, its the perfect place to sit, relax and watch the stormy outside weather.

After a lazy start to the day, it’s time to go quad biking. Today’s adventure is with Across Country Quadbikes. We are the only ones on the tour, I guess no one else is crazy enough to do this in heavy rain, but I know it makes it more fun! We begin with a rather strict health & safety briefing, before getting kitted up in full wet weather gear and helmets. We are then shown how to operate the bikes (I am relieved that they are automatic) and are sent off around 2 different test routes.

Phew, I pass the test!

The first is easy, just going around in a circle and weaving in and out of markers. The second, I guess, prepares us for the type of terrain we are likely to expect – sharp turns, big slopes and a huge puddle. I am actually surprised at how deep it is, the water comes right up to my ankles. Fortunately we are wearing gumboots!

And then we are off! Its a 2 hour track along a variety of terrain – a road, glacial river beds, grasslands, rivers and the most stunning rain forest. At each section, our guide stops us for a quick chat about what type of terrain we are approaching and how to handle it. Each section seems to get a bit harder.

The first section, along the road, is rather challenging as we are in full wind and rain. I am driving in an open faced helmet, straight into the weather and can hardly see! Fortunately this doesn’t last long as we soon reach the forest. This section offers some tight turns and lots of puddles, some pretty long and deep. I love splashing through the puddles.

The next section is a narrow path with tight corners, among tall grasses. It’s along sand though, which is easy to ride on, which means, more speed!

Then we get to the riverbed. There are lots of hills, some quite steep, with plenty of river crossings. As I cross my first few rivers I am very much aware of the strength of the current as I push across on my bike. Its take me a long time to find the right speed, not too fast, but also not too slow that I get stuck.

The bike is heavy and powerful, it has no issues navigating the rocky terrain – it’s just my steering that’s the issue. I have to say, there are many occasions where my handle bars are going in every direction as I bump along over the rocks. My muscle lacking arms are getting a real workout trying to keep the bike on course.

We make a stop to get some photos while on the riverbed. On a clear day we would have been able to see Franz Josef Glacier, but today, it is hidden in a blanket of fog. Our guide explains that the area we are currently in, many thousands of years ago, would have been a glacier. From this perspective I am able to get a really impressive sense of just how big, deep and wide it was.

We start making our way back retracing our path. My favourite section is through the rainforst. It is warm, misty and covered in moss. I think from my previous posts you must be starting to get a sense of just how much I am in love with the West Coast Forest. It is making me swoon. We learn that this is called temperate rainforst and that it is very unique. It’s where glaciers meet forests and is only found in 3 places in the world. Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers in New Zealand and Patagonia in South America. This rainforest is also home to our little Rowi kiwi which is the world’s rarest kiwi. There are less than 600 left in the wild. You can see them at the Kiwi Center.

We make it back to base, soaking wet, dripping head to toe on the outside but completely dry underneath. The wet weather gear was excellent!

Apologies for the quality of photos this week. They are still taken from our GoPro video. The rain was so persistent that the lens constantly had droplets of water on it, making everything a bit blurry.

One thought on “Quad Biking in Franz Josef

  1. Pingback: Planning your West Coast Itinerary – Exploring the Long White Cloud

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