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Published: November 26th 2013
Monday 25th November, 2013. Fox Glacier and Scenic Drive to Wanaka, Otago, South Island, New Zealand.
Today was the worst weather we had had so far. We woke up in Franz Josef and it was hammering it down with rain. After breakfast we set off for the Fox Glacier. We had decided to go for the Chalet View Track to the Fox Glacier as we had done the valley walk to the Franz Josef Glacier. The Chalet View would allow us to look down on the glacier (if we could see through the clouds!).
We arrived at the car park and found that there was only one other car there - nobody else was mad enough to do it in those weather conditions. We set off fully kitted out in our wet gear. The first sign we came across warned us that the side streams on this track could become impassable during, and shortly after, heavy rain. Still, like loonies we carried on anyway.
The estimated return time for this walk was an hour and a half. We continued to steadily climb upwards. We leapt like gazelles over a number of small gullies and managed to negotiate a
wider stream by jumping from rock to rock. Neither of us got wet (well not in the streams anyway). We continued upwards until the track came to a much larger river bed. We could see the flag on the other side so knew where we had to go. The water in this river was much more fast flowing and deeper. We did however negotiate our way across. We continued for another 5 minutes until we reached a part of the path that had collapsed. We could see the Chalet View Platform so clambered over the fallen boulders, clinging on to the vegetation and branches on the side. Once on the platform we could, indeed, see Fox Glacier. We are sure it would've looked better in nicer weather, but still we had done it. M managed to dunk her left foot in the bigger river on the return journey but luckily she had dry socks and her trainers in the car.
We continued on our way towards Wanaka which was our next destination. This was supposed to be a wonderfully scenic drive but the rain kept on falling which spoiled it somewhat. We stopped briefly at Bruce Bay and took
a photo of the beach which looked incredibly wild and uninviting in the weather conditions. Next we stopped at Knights Point Lookout. We could see that on a nice day the view from here would have been absolutely marvelous. We took some murky photos anyway. Onwards we went to Ship Creek Reserve and Lookout. (Up Ship Creek without a Paddle D Joked!) We would have loved to have walked this reserve as there was a great boardwalk. We didn't bother though as we would have got soaked. The sand flies zoomed in on D's bare legs and M came to the rescue with the recently procured sand fly repellent. We climbed up the lookout tower and took some pics.
We stopped for a lunch of toasties and a glass of wine/ale at Haast Village in a really lovely pub called the Hard Antler. It was run by a really pleasant couple. The ambiance and food were very good. We continued on until we came to Thunder Creek Falls. We walked down to the viewpoint and took some photographs. We continued on the highway until we crossed the Wills River by means of a one-way bridge. The water here was
incredibly fast moving and the rapids were really impressive. We stopped shortly after the bridge and took some more photographs.
Next stop was the Fantail Falls. These have a little more significance in the history of the area as they were "the power behind the road". These falls played a role in the construction of the Haast Highway. A Pelton water wheel was built at the foot of the falls to drive the compressors that powered the road-building machinery. The concrete foundations are still in place. The new road followed the tracks of the late 1800's. Men who were unemployed as a result of the Great Depression worked on the road in the 1930's. Gangs worked from both ends, with the difficult Gates of Haast Section not finished until after the Second World War. Conditions were grim, progress slow and funding piecemeal. The workers suffered dreadfully from sand fly bites. These beasties, which M has already unfortunately encountered, are known as the 'Vampires of the West Coast'. James Cook recorded that "wherever they light they cause a
swelling and such intolerable itching that it is not possible to refrain from scratching..." How true - just ask M.
next stop was the Blue Pools. In the guide book these looked absolutely stunning. The Blue Pools are located at the confluence of the Makarora and Blue Rivers. They are deep pools of azure glacier-fed water. The pools are supposed to be so clear that you can see the bottom, making the HUGE brown trout between appear suspended in mid air. It was a 30 minute walk to the pools so we donned our wet gear again and set off following the forest path which made its way through lovely silver birch/tahina canopied forest. This eventually came to two swing bridges where you had views of the 'Blue' Pools. However, due to the weather conditions they were very much 'Muddy Grey/Green Pools'. We took some photos anyway. Just to show what it should have been like we have included a couple of brochure pictures of the pools with this blog.
We continued on the drive to Wanaka stopping at the Tourist Information Office in Makarora. Here we purchased a guide to outdoor pursuits in Wanaka. M mentioned the muddy pools and the guy cheerfully told us "yesterday they were bright blue" - just what we wanted to hear. We
carried along the highway passing Lake Wanaka on our right before the highway turned east and we now had Lake Hawea on our left. The weather was still rubbish but we took some photos from the numerous view points on the way down into Wanaka.
We checked in to the Youth Hostel and then went across to the New World Supermarket. We dined on lamb's liver, onions, mash and broccoli, washed down with vino of course. It was our best meal yet. Tomorrow we will go tramping - weather permitting.
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