Published: August 24th 2011August 24th 2011
After Queenstown, we made our way to Wanaka. There was stunning valley views as we made our way from the south of the region. The area is full of activities but it is a lot quieter than adrenaline pumped Queenstown. While we were here we stayed in Albert Town at a campsite and visited Puzzling World which was great fun.
It started out as just a maze in 1973 by Stuart Landsborough and his wife and has since expanded into a big tourist attraction. Driving into the car park we could see a leaning clock tower which they call the Leaning Tower of Wanaka. The tower uncluding it’s base has been pulled out of the ground and balanced on one corner at an unbelievable 53 degrees. Just to note the infamous leaning Tower of Pisa leans at only 6 degrees. The clock on the tower ticks backwards – it was started at the stroke of midnight of the year 2000 so it’s going backwards into the 20th century.
Inside there were many tables set up with puzzles on them – Andy and I tried a few. We paid to go inside the Illusion Rooms which were really clever and
very weird. There was a room of 3d faces that appeared to follow us wherever we went. What was even more weird was the faces were of people like Muhammad Ali, Nelson Mandela and Mother Theresa! There was another room where when you walked in one side you were a giant hitting your head on the ceiling and then when you walked over to the other side you are tiny. They used this method in the Lord of the Rings to portray the size difference with the hobbits.
Our favourite room was the tilted room – the floor was really angled so it felt like we were going to fall over. There was different illusion bits in the room that appeared really strange for example a slanted pool table and the ball appeared to roll uphill! We also tried our luck at the 1.2km maze in the gounds. There were 4 towers to reach painted different colours and you have to go to each tower in a particular order and then find your way back to the beginning. We did manage to get to all the towers but not in the order that was requested – we hadn’t bought
any water with us and it was very hot so I’m afraid we gave up.
After puzzling world we made our to Haast, a town on the West Coast. Haast Pass was a beautiful road trip through the valleys. After having a little nose around Haast – nothing really to report – we made our to Fox Glacier township. We had been looking forward to doing a glacier walk for ages and it was one of the must do’s in NZ. It was quite a difficult decision trying to deicde on whether to go to Fox or Franz Josef Glacier a bit further up the road. In the end it came down to money, Fox was $60 cheaper and it was also a quicker walk to get to the glacier so it meant more ice time! The thing that worried us a bit about doing a full day was there were of course no toilets on the glacier – that’s about 7 hours! We booked in anyway and I’m so glad we did – it was brilliant! For those that want to know – we didn’t need the toilet and we survived the day!
We had to go
to the Fox Glacier shop at 9am the next day to get kitted out. We were supplied with leather boots and crampons to fit to our boots once we are on the ice. Crampons are metal spikes that make it easier to walk on ice. There was quite a lot of us – 19 on the full day trip so I was pleased when they split us into 2 groups. We definetely were in the best group. We had a group of Aussies with us that we really got on with, I think it helped I was wearing my Australia Zoo hoodie. Our tour guide Joe was really cool, he told us some great info about the glacier as we walked the 40 minute journey to the glacier from the car park.
The Fox Glacier is a 13 km long glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast. It is the longest glacier in the region. It was named in 1872 after a visit by the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Sir William Fox. Nowhere else at this latitude do glaciers come so close to the ocean. It also has the distinction of being
one of the few glaciers to end among lush rainforest only 300 metres above sea level. The huge thing about the glaciers was the fact that it moves on average 1-2 metres every day! So the guides say that it’s a new day for them too – if there was a cool cave there one day means it might be gone the next. The glaciers staggering development is largely due to the West Coast’s endless rain. Luckily, it didn’t rain when we were there. At its head, soaring peaks of over 3,000m (10,000ft) dominate the vista. These include Aoraki (Mt Cook) and Mt Tasman. This mighty moving river of ice falls 2,600 metres, or a little over 8,000ft, on its journey from the base of the Southern Alps. The unique combination of climate and shape means that Fox (and Franz Josef) Glaciers move at approximately 10 times the speed of other valley glaciers around the world. At Fox Glacier this is due to the funnel-like shape of the glacial valley and the huge nevé, the snow accumulation area, at the top of the glacier. Fox Glacier’s nevé is 36 square kms, bigger than the whole of Christchurch City! Apparently, up
to 50m of snow falls here each year! Glaciers constantly advance and retreat, held in delicate balance by the accumulation of snow gained in the upper glacier and ice melting in the lower part. An increase in snowfall at the nevé will result in the glacier advancing. Correspondingly, a faster melt will result in the glacier retreating. Overall Fox Glacier has been advancing since 1985.
We couldn’t just go up to the front of the ice and climb on, we had to step on from the side so it meant a very steep climb up some rocks. We couldn’t go anywhere near the front of the glacier as bits of ice fall from the front all the time. Just in 2009, two brothers ignored the fences and stood taking pictures until 100 tonnes of ice fell on them and sadly crushed them to death. We also had to be careful of boulders falling down the mountains on us as we climbed up, we couldn’t linger we just had to keep moving. When we put on the crampons we were able to step onto the ice. Some of the ice guides had already carved some ice steps for us with
pick axes which made it easier to get used to climbing in the crampons. About ten minutes in Joe found an ice tunnel and went in first to check it was ok for us. Andy was really excited as this is what he’d wanted to find. Thankfully, Joe came out a few minutes later just as we were chatting about what to do if he doesn’t come out! He said it was safe so we headed in a steep climb to the bottom and then through the tight tunnel. At one point there was even a slide!! I went down it face first straight into a mound of crushed ice, hehe. It was brilliant and we did it more than once!
The day progressed much the same walking on the ice, learning how best to walk on the crampons as it was a bit of a strange feeling and then stopping at caves and tunnels and little iced ponds. They’d given us poles to help us walking but I used mine to poke things and try and smash some of the ice, it was fun. We stopped for lunch on some rocks which was a bit cold after a
while and had our packed lunch that Andy had made. It felt like we were the only people for miles around as we couldn’t see the other group. The ice wasn’t a pristine white which I thought it would be and was actually a bit dirty on the floor part. The walls of the caves and tunnels was amazing to run your hand along, so smooth and such a beautiful colour. White with slashes of blue in it. We found a cool area that had slabs of ice all layered up so we all had fun poking around at them. Joe even let Andy have a go with his pick axe which Andy enjoyed swinging around.
We made it back to the car park absolutely shattered but all of us so proud we had made it and I was so pleased I hadnt needed the loo. When we got back to the shop we gave back all our equipment and received certificates to say we had completed the walk. It was a fantastic day, we both really enjoyed it. Another huge highlight of this trip.
Over the next couple of days we made our way up the West Coast
stopping at various towns and tourist attractions along the way. One was the Punakaiki pancake rocks and blowholes. Nature began this work of art about 30 million years ago. Over thousands of years, alternating layers of small marine creatures and sand became buried and compressed on the ocean floor. This created areas with multiple layers of hard limestone and softer sandstone. Earthquake activity then lifted the ocean floor high and dry, and those slow motion artists - the rain and the wind - began to erode the softer sandstone. The outcome is cliffs and ravines with hundreds of horizontal slices along their vertical faces, like huge stacks of pancakes. It was really interesting to see the rock formations, scientists have no idea how or why the rocks are stacked like this.
We also travelled up to Cape Foulwind to see the fur seal colony there. They were really cute and we watched them for about an hour lounging around on the rocks and dipping in and out of the sea. Like seeing them at Milford Sound it’s great to see them in their natural habitat. Another stop off was to cross New Zealand’s longest swing bridge at Buller Gorge
River. It was quite cool to do but it was very swingy and I didn’t feel very safe – especially when Andy started jumping up and down on it! Hehe.
We carried on our journey to the Abel Tasman National Park which is one of New Zealand’s most visited parks. It was absolutely beautiful. This country seems to have everything! Abel Tasman National Park (established in 1942) is renowned for its golden beaches, sculptured granite cliffs, and world-famous Abel Tasman Coast Track. It also has a mild climate and is meant to be a good place to visit at any time of the year. At 22,530 hectares Abel Tasman is also New Zealand's smallest national park. We headed to Tortaranui Beach to camp there the night in the park, there is a DOC campsite right next to the beach and is meant to be one of the most pituresque spots in the park. Unbelievably, this campsite can hold up to 850 campers and if you want to stay there in December, January and February you have to apply in July and then your name is put into a lottery system, it is that popular! How crazy is that?? When
we stayed, there was 3 of us. Hehe. We had the whole beach to ourselves for the afternoon and we had a lot of fun as you can see from the pictures. It was a gorgeous beach and we didn’t want to leave but we had a ferry to catch.
We made our way to Picton for the night as we had booked the early ferry, we also wondered what this polar storm was going to be like that had been forecast so we wanted power for the night to have the heater on. When we arrived in Picton it was snowing – the chap at the park said it was the first snow seen in Picton for years and years. Little did we know how bad the weather would actually get…..
Hope you enjoyed reading about the South Island – we had the most fantastic time. It was the most spectacular place I’ve ever been too and I think Andy will agree that New Zealand has completely blown us away. North Island ones to come soon….
Miss you all.
There are more photos below