The most vivid memories of my childhood are often about playing in the outdoors. A large Kowhai tree in our garden was the centrepiece for my imaginary play. It's pods would hang down heavily from the tree in season with its seeds and leaves used for counting, food for my dolls and treasure to hide. There was no technology until a black and white TV entered into the lounge. Sitting for long in front of it was never an option due to my grumpy parents. I know the amount of time I spent as a child appreciating nature is directly linked to how I cherish the simple things of life; fresh air, a walk in the forest, a swim in the lake. How fortunate I am to live in Franz Josef where those activities are on the doorstep.
As I watch the news I can't help but feel negative about the future of nature. Surely though it can't be helpful blaming industry and the slow pace of government change for the over development taking place on Earth So do we all have to stop driving our petrol cars, become vegetarians, or stop buying anything new? Maybe we will achieve more by being mindful of what we are doing and how we can do it better, grateful for what we have already and being able to change what we can.
We collect our own rain water and as such all drinking water is safe, fresh and delicious. So bringing plastic bottled water is not necessary.
Rubbish and recycling
We follow the three Rs in relation to the environment – reduce, reuse and recycle.
We buy goods in bulk to reduce packaging and reuse when possible. Recycling is fostered by composting all suitable
materials, separating bottles, plastics and cardboard to be sent to our local recycling facility. Any
remaining rubbish is sent to an approved local body landfill. We also pick up rubbish along our local roads
(piccie Julie with rubbish) (garden & compost bin)
We monitor where goods are coming from to ensure sustainable best practice is used. We support initiatives such as Fair Trade and buy and support local whenever possible.
We have a large and prolific garden at with nut trees, berry bushes, a tunnel house and raised vegetable garden plots.
There is nothing quite like getting fresh berries, herbs and vegetables from our own garden. We also preserve our garden surplus by freezing and making jams and pickles.
To further reduce the environmental footprint we monitor our electric and water usage and reduce
both as much as possible turning off appliances, switches etc, using energy efficient electrical items
and invite guests staying at Ribbonwood to do the same.
We use environmentally friendly in-room toiletries and cleaning products and donate any unwanted
items to charity. To reduce packaging, we make our own bar soap from sustainable accredited
Local environment and native wildlife
Over the 20 years we have owned the property we have planted more than 500 trees and shrubs.
Some were for firewood, many for shelter and also long lived native species, which hopefully will still
be growing in 500 years time. Where possible the trees were grown from locally sourced seed, or
transplanted from self seeded sources. These have encouraged prolific bird life, which in turn bring in
more native seeds which germinate and enhance our species diversity.
It's hard to put a finger on the one thing I liked the most about staying at Breakers. Jan and Stephen's place is situated on the West Coast's Punakaiki Coastline on the Great Coast Road. With absolute beachfront on the West Coast's beautiful Punakaiki coastline, Breakers overlooks the Tasman Sea. We seldom encountered anyone else on our walks on their wild beach. Lucky enough to be there during low tide in the early evening, we were treated to a sublime sunset and a fascinating rock pool walk. Looking up to the backdrop behind Breakers is lush subtropical rainforest with spectacular alpine tops. We know from experience, fantastic tramping opportunities abound up there. Each of their four guest rooms have a fantastic sea view, so the hardest part is choosing which one to book. As always though, it is the hosts that play the major role in making sense of what we were experiencing and they made our stay very special with their warm welcome. Staying longer than one night gave us a chance to get off the beaten track. Jan and Stephen took us up the 10 Mile Valley where the mines and relics were fascinating, we loved exploring this wild and remote place. Our guide regaled us with stories from his deep interest in mining history. The extraction of coal was evident from relics and mine entrances set in the lush forest. We could only begin to imagine the characters toiling here, where daily life would have been a struggle with the cold, rain and strenuous work.
Punakaiki has many colourful local crafts people with jewellers, carvers, painters and potters. Tourism activities include canoe adventures, horse trekking, knifemaking and cave rafting to name just a few. The West Coast is famous for its friendly hospitality but Jan and Stephen at Breakers went above and beyond all our expectations to give us a truly wonderful time during our stay.
I enjoy showing my guests the best places to go for walks to find superb views surrounded by temperate rainforest. To truly appreciate the mountain tops though, it's worth shouting yourself a flight over the Southern Alps. With views of rugged native forested land, lakes, mountains, farmland, wild coastline and the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, it's guaranteed a massive smile will be planted on your face. Landing on the ice, the views are of pinnacles, crevasses and the deepest blue colour ever of the ice in the glaciers with Aoraki rising above it all. From experience I can promise you it is a memory will always be there, along with the feeling of exhilaration!
Douglas and Peters Pool Walk
One of my favourite rides is to the Douglas Walk in the Glacier Valley. The bike is abandoned, jogging shoes donned and off round the 4 km loop taking in these fab views. I can never take enough photos of the moods of Peters pool, a lake which reflects the glacier. It was created by the retreating glacier dropping a chunk of melted ice that formed into a kettle lake about 1800 AD.
Franz Josef Glacier Valley Walk
Visiting the glaciers in New Zealand is unique as they are within easy driving and walking distance from the main highway.
When we first arrived in Franz Josef in 2000, we would don our boots and walk up to the terminal face. There we would put on our crampons and head up onto the ice, following the guides tracks and cutting our own. In the 1900s tracks and bridges were built to provide access onto the glaciers. Early photos show hikers with some nails in the soles of their shoes and women in long dresses exploring with mountain guides! In 1955 a photo shows my mother being guided onto the ice with far more suitable equipment and clothing.
Up until 2010 it was still possible use crampons to hike up on the ice from the terminal face without needing a helicopter flight. Foot access onto the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers is now limited to helicopter flights. Despite an advance in the mid 2000’s, both glaciers have been shrinking and the terminals of the glaciers receding. The rocky terrain below each of the glacier terminals is too dangerous to traverse on foot.
Both glaciers have periodically advanced, but are several kilometres shorter than the maximum extent reached during the mini-ice age of the 1700’s. During the previous global ice age which finished approximately 15,000 years ago, these glaciers reached nearly to the current coast line, 15 kilometres west of the present glaciers extent.
Walking access to view the glaciers has remained problematical, caused by storm events and river erosion of the valley floor. Franz Josef access track has been re-routed as the river flowing from under the glacier has changed course, requiring construction of new tracks on the valley walls. In 2017 at Fox glacier, a massive debris flow from Mills Creek, a side creek in the valley, forced the main river to cut into the west bank where the access road was and is now closed.
While glaciers around the world are retreating, the Franz Josef glacier is still the most accessible to visit in the world. It is an easy walk along ancient river beds through valleys with steep mountain sides. One of the most impressive features is the bed rock with vertical stripes, contrasting with the horizontal gouges caused by rocks imbedded from when the glacier scraped past. It remains a favourite walk for us though we have to leave our crampons behind.