Published: March 6th 2012March 6th 2012
After breakfast we loaded the car up again and got back on Rt. 6 heading north toward the glacier country. Another couple at the Lodge, Nan and Art from Spokane, told us about Lake Matheson near the town of Fox Glacier. They said there was a real pretty walk around the lake which was easily accessed from the main road. Since we had all day and not a lot of distance to cover we decided to check it out. The car park and trail head was right where we’d been told, so off we went. Our first surprise was when we crossed the river which flowed out of the lake. Up till now all the rivers we’d seen had been crystal clear, but this one while clear had a very marked brown color. We later asked a Dept. of Conservation employee what caused this and he said it was due to the water flowing through all the fallen vegetation on the floor of the forest and picking up the color of the rotting leaves, wood and other stuff. That made sense to us. The trail started out across a meadow with the mountains in the distance and cattle just the other
side of the fence. We crossed a suspension bridge and then into the trees. Most of the lakes in this part of NZ are long and skinny as they were carved when the glaciers came down from the mountains 15,000 years ago and left when they retreated. Lake Matheson was no exception and we started walking up one side. About halfway up that side was the first view point, about a 0.5km walk from the car. We enjoyed the view for a while and since we were feeling good, decided to push on and circumnavigate the whole lake, a total walk of 2.6km. At the far end of the lake was a photo spot the called the View of Views, you can judge for yourselves, but we thought the description fit. Somewhere up in the mountains in the distance is the Fox Glacier, but we never did see it and didn’t want to spend the time to try and find it. On the way back we passed a Rimu tree. We’d seen these by the Lodge and were told that the facial tattoos the Maori chiefs wore were based on the patterns it this trees bark. Do you agree? We
completed the walk and saw a Kahikatea tree at the edge of the meadow, these trees live 800 to 1,000 years. This was another tree we’d seen at the Lodge, but didn’t get a picture of. This is called the food basket of the forest because of the millions of seeds it drops every year. These seeds provide food to a large number of the birds and animals in the forest. And we complain because the oak trees in the lawn drop a few thousand acorns every fall.
After a Coke at the café by the car park (which had won a number of culinary awards, go figure) we got back on Rt. 6 heading for the Franz Joseph Glacier. This time, we saw the signs to the glacier as we entered the town and after checking in to our room, we drove back. The face of the Glacier is about 1km up the valley from the car park. While we were a bit footsore (Pat picked the wrong shoes for hiking this morning) we set off up the trail dodging the tour groups returning to their buses. We came out of the trees into the river bed still
Franz Joseph Glacier
The main glacier is at the top of the valley with just a little finger coming down.
quite a bit below the glacier, but we pressed on. Walking along the river, we noticed this river was a milky grey with all the stone dust being carried downstream. We got about half way to the face (to the waterfall in the picture) when it started to rain and our feet got the better of us so we turned back. We each had a burger (Connie’s was a pumpkin and spinach veggie burger) for dinner at a place in Franz Joseph, both were very good. Back in the room we didn’t have any trouble getting to sleep.
The next morning, we got an early start as we had to cover the 150km or so to Greymouth in time to catch the train to Christchurch. Nan and Art also mentioned they liked a little town called Hokitika which is a little artist’s colony a bit south of Greymouth. Since we were making pretty good time, we decided to stop and stretch our legs and get a long black. They were right, it was a cute town with a number of quaint shops, but we got out cheap. We also crossed paths with a "tour” by the NZ Austin 7
owners club. The Austin 7 is a small
British car built from the ‘30s to the ‘50s and there were a number of them parked around town. We didn’t actually see anyone driving around but figured they were stopped to warm up as the cars were pretty simple (you can check Google for more on the Austin 7). Sorry we didn’t get a picture of one.
Finally we got to Greymouth in plenty of time for the train. Just like in the US, you have to return your rental car full of gas, or the car rental company (Avis in our case) gouges you to fill it. So after tracking down the train station we searched out a place for gas. Up till now we had been working on the gas that came with the car in Queenstown, but we were down below ¼ of a tank so we knew it was going to be ugly. And so it was, NZ$112 (about $US 100) or $US 9.00 per gal. Maybe that’s why we saw so many bicyclists on Rt. 6. After walking around Greymouth for a bit (this is one NZ town you could miss if you had to) we boarded the TransAlpine train for Christchurch.