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Published: March 28th 2018
Day 40 – half way through our trip. Today we have a 180 mile drive north to Franz Josef Glacier. It didn’t sound far when we planned it, but NZ roads are narrow and windy with few passing places. Add in the bus loads of Chinese tourists and the RVs full of British pensioners and basically 180 miles means driving all day.
First I go for a jog round Lake Wanaka. I plan to run to Wanaka’s top attraction; #ThatWanakaTree – it’s a tree growing in the middle of the lake. I wonder if I will be able to locate a lone tree in the dawn half-light but I needn’t have worried, it’s easy to spot the ring of photographers on the bank.
The wind blowing across the lake is intense. A century ago some mad settler decided to deal with the issue by planting a row of oak trees so I am subjected to an aerial bombardment of acorns.
Wanaka tree photographed, it’s an uphill run back to the hotel. The tiles along the footpath have been numbered and turned into a huge timeline. I’m so engrossed I almost forget I’m running up a hill and I
We check out and have a sausage sandwich by the lake before setting off. The weather forecast is for heavy rain and 120 kph winds. At our our first stop, Lake Hawea, we can see the rain falling at the far side of the lake which makes a great atmospheric photo. Minutes later we reach the rain, which is less great.
At least the wet weather adds to the appeal of our next two stops; Fantail Falls (several falls joining together forming a fan shape) and Thunder Creek Falls (a waterfall thundering vertically down the rock face) are in full flow.
But the next part of our journey, which is supposed to be a spectacular mountain pass, is pretty much just a drive through a cloud. The rain is torrential, which is weird because I thought rain fell out of clouds, yet we’re actually in the clouds and it’s still raining.
After 5 hours driving in heavy rain, we reach the turnoff for our final planned destination. It’s 5 miles along an unsealed road to a lookout offering views of Fox Glacier and Mount Cook. I suggest giving it a miss as visibility is
only a few metres. But the old man is determined. He has a joke about mints planned for his FB status. He says we should go there anyway (to be precise, he says we should ‘suck it and see’). Obviously I don’t laugh. Also, obviously there is no view of glaciers or mountains. We can’t even work out which direction we’re supposed to be looking in.
We give up and head for our hostel in Franz Josef. Expectations are low, the most recent review says merely; “I survived”. But, weird stuff on the bathroom roof aside, it’s not too bad. It has dorms and private rooms so maybe the dorms suck.
Finally the rain abates and we go for a walk round the village. The clouds are still too low to see any glacier. That will have to wait till tomorrow.
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