Pancake Rocks and a Disappearing Glacier

December 1, 2017

Pancake Rocks

The Pancake Rocks, on the South Island’s west coast, are among the must-see places in New Zealand according to the Lonely Planet. So, of course, if our favorite travel guide designates something as a must-see, we go and see it. Even though, this time, the trip there was particularly annoying due to the fact that we initially went the wrong way. So it took a rather big detour and some back and forth deciding whether to still go or not, until we actually got to the rocks.

But finally we made it, together with a few hundred other tourists. In the beginning, we were somewhat underwhelmed by what we saw and we started wondering whether it had been a huge waste of time to go there. But, as we made our way along the coastal walk and saw more and more of the rocks, we changed our minds. The Pancake Rocks are indeed special and beautiful. They’re very touristic, due to all tour buses stopping there, but if you manage to ignore that and just enjoy the nature, the views of the rocks and the ocean are spectacular.

Next stop: the Franz Josef Glacier

For all the importance its name conveys it (being named after an emperor and all), the Franz Josef glacier is now just a shadow of its former self. It could, actually, be the poster child for a campaign on global warming.

We didn’t have a lot of time to spend at the glacier, but we did make it to the viewpoint from which the photo below is taken. If you look closely enough, you can see the glacier in the very back of the valley between the mountains. It’s hard to believe that, just 100 years ago, the place from which we took the photo was actually covered by the glacier. Plus, the glacier has retreated especially fast from 2010 to the present day. It’s sad to realize first hand how big the effects of climate change are on our planet.

Highs and Lows


  • Of course, seeing all the beautiful things mentioned above made me very happy. But something else was also a high of these couple of days: the best shower since we started the trip in the campervan! It may not seem like such a big thing, but after sometimes having to pay for warm showers (for every 5, 6, or 8 minutes) and stressing to be done in time, sometimes not being able to set the temperature of the water, having to press a button every 10 seconds to keep the water coming, having barely any water coming out of the shower head, and having the pressure and temperature of the water vary a lot during a short shower… well, after having all that for about 10 days, you really appreciate a hot shower that just works.


  • Seeing the info panels at the Franz Josef glacier, about how much it has retreated in the last hundred years. The panels had been made in 2010, with a photo of the glacier from that time. Next to it was a photo montage showing a much smaller version of the glacier and asking “Will this be Franz Josef glacier in 2100?” The very sad thing is that now, in 2017, the glacier is already smaller than that pessimistic prediction made in 2010 for 2100…

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