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Published: February 2nd 2006
From Queenstown we headed North past Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea. The weather was beautiful, the scenery spectacular, but the hairpin bends and one-way bridges across the rivers made for a slow journey. We enjoyed lunch on a very desolate but pretty Haast beach. Unfortunately we had entered sand fly territory and could not hang around long before making a dash for the car. The west coast of the South Island is sparsely inhabited and the few towns that you do come across are small and seem to lack life. The town at Fox Glacier is no different. We arrived in the afternoon and checked into an uninspiring but comfortable holiday park. After dropping our gear off we headed to Matheson Lake for a walk and to try and catch the reflection of NZ’s highest peaks Mt Cook and Mt Tasman in the lake. A slight breeze rippled the water, so we didn’t get to snap the famous reflection, but the walk was very picturesque.
We had booked ourselves in to do a full day hike on the Fox Glacier the next day, but the weather forecast was for rain so we weren’t overly optimistic even when we awoke to
Lunch on a deslolate Haast Beach
Unfortunatley the sand flies were lunching on Keith
blue skies. We checked in with Alpine Adventures and were issued with heavy-duty boots, socks, gloves, beanies, crampons and waterproof jackets. After catching a lift on the 30-year-old bus up to the start of the hike, we split into 2 groups of 10 with two kiwi guides. We set off on what was an amazing 6 hours of exploring the glacier. We were very grateful that the skies remained blue as we climbed the valley to the face of the glacier. Here we tied on metal spikes (crampons) to our boots, put on warmer clothes as the cold wind off the ice was chilling, and started to climb the glacier.
It is a strange feeling walking on ice and even more surreal being on such an enormous body of ice that goes on for kms. The glacier melts 20cm a day and advances 1 metre a day! The hiking was slow as the guides had to cut steps along the way but this gave us time to take pictures and chat to the fellow hikers. We were very surprised to find that parts of the glacier are covered in loose rocks that have been carried up by the ice
from the valley floor. This made for some tricky hiking as the crampons don’t work well on the loose, brittle rock (schist) and quite a few of us were sliding about. We were surprised to discover that NZ has over 3000 glaciers and that the Fox Glacier has been advancing over the last couple of years despite global warming. This is due to the increased number of storms that have resulted in greater snowfalls. This area gets 7m of rain a year and 50m of snow on the top of the glacier. So you can see just how lucky we were to have good weather when it rains 200 days a year. The glacier was a photographer’s dream, especially in the bright sunlight, as the different colour blues shone through. We must have taken a hundred photos. There was the constant roar of an underground river where all the melting ice was flowing to, and several loud cracks and rumbles as rocks slid down the ice. We felt a real sense of achievement (as well as exhaustion) after the 7-hour hike.
Our next destination was the Abel Tasman National Park. It was to be a long drive, so we
decided to spend a night just outside Westport at a Top Ten holiday park right near a beach. On the way up we stopped at Punakaiki for packed lunch and to have a look at the Pancake Rocks and the blowholes. We checked into a kitchen cabin that meant we had our own kitchen and TV that was a treat.
Our drive to Abel Tasman took us through Nelson, where we climbed a steep hill through the Botanical Gardens to what is meant to be the “Centre of NZ”. The park also lays claim to hosting NZ’s first rugby match. On leaving Nelson we found ourselves winding our way round another mountain range, only to see the petrol gauge on empty and no sign of a town anywhere. Well you can imagine the panic, with Lisa frantically trying to work out how many kms until the next town and Keith freewheeling down the hills in student gear (neutral) to conserve fuel. We finally wheeled in to a tiny garage in the middle of nowhere, where the fuels cost a fortune, but we didn’t care at that stage. Whew!
An hour or so later we arrived in Motueka, a strange
little town just outside of the Abel Tasman National Park. We checked into the Top Ten and headed off to the National Park, where we hiked to Coquill Bay - a stunning beach where we had a swim in the emerald waters and a bit of a laze before hiking back. It was amazing to see how far the tide comes in and out, leaving boats stranded on dry sand for hours in some of the bays.
The following day we woke early and dropped our car off at the Southern Exposure headquarters. We were met by our kayaking guide, Holly, who was a cocky little Scotsman with a very witty sense of humour. He gave our group a quick overview of how to use the kayaks (which he called divorce machines as they were doubles) before we loaded them onto the trailer and headed to the park. We spent the day kayaking along the beautiful coastline stopping on white sandy beaches for snacks and lunch breaks and to enjoy the cool, aquamarine waters. Thankfully with a little help the two of us became quite good at paddling and manoeuvring the kayak so there is no divorce on the
Adventurers are us
Lucky for Lisa it is summer
cards. This time we stowed our camera in a waterproof box on top of the kayak so there would be no repeat dramas with the camera like we had in Malaysia!
We ended the day at the beautiful Anchorage Bay where we said goodbye to the group and, after spending some time on the beach, boarded the Aquapacker. The Aquapacker is a catamaran that has been converted into a hostel for about 20 people with bunks in the hulls and an entertainment deck above the main deck. After claiming one of the two double bunks on the boat we showered and headed above for a much deserved beer and BBQ. We had a really enjoyable evening chatting to other travellers and enjoying the sunset. We stayed up late to gaze at the stars and the Milky Way, before trying to get some sleep. The bunk we had was small for the two of us and had about 10cm of space above your face. So it was an interesting night with 10 other people coming and going and the odd snorer. Lisa was petrified that Keith was going to roll off the edge onto the lady below so kept trying
to hang on to him which did not help with getting a good nights rest.
Next day we woke up early to eat breakfast and prepare ourselves a packed lunch. Our map showed that we would need to do a 6-hour hike to get to Onetahuti Beach, where the water taxi would pick us up at 3pm. So after saying goodbye to everyone and catching a lift back to shore we headed off at the start of another beautiful day. The hike was quite tough but was mostly in the shade of the forest that helped to keep us cool. We had some amazing views across the bays and stopped every so often for a snack and water. We reached our destination in very good time (Lisa setting the power walk pace) so it meant t we had three hours to enjoy the beautiful beach and clear waters. A family of ducks joined us for a nap in the shade which was quite entertaining. Unfortunately Lisa was stung on the neck by a bee so there were a few tears. The taxi took us back to the edge of the park where we collected our car and headed back
to Motueka for the night.
We ended our stay in the South Island at a lovely backpackers in Picton called the Juggler’s Inn. We spent the 3 hours on the ferry back to the North Island reading our books. Then picked up a car in Wellington and drove 5 hours to Clive, just outside of Napier, for the night. We stayed at a very homely and quaint backpackers called Gannett Lodge which was situated on a smallholding. Our final leg back to Auckland took us 5 hours.
It was great to catch up with Natalie and Corrie Gerber and their partners Peter and Warren who are hosting us for our last two nights here. They have been extremely kind to us and made us very welcome in their home.
Our road trip through New Zealand took us through mountains, valleys, along rugged coastlines and to white sandy bays. We drove over 4500KM and yet could not pack in all the sights this time round.
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Robyn and Ross
Wow we want to go tooo!
Hi there We have been thinking of you and wondering how you are going, the stories and pictures have been awesome and we want to go too! All is well here. Jorja has a little "tooofie" - shark tooth - and Kyla still no sign of one. Kyla is almost sitting. they are both crawling all over the show. Jorja was sick last week with a virus, plus a tooth cutting and her usual vomitting - she had lost weight too with a high temperature - not a happy little champ. Took her to the Dr. and she is on an antiacid for the vomiting which has sorted it out so very few vomits now. She is much better and eating like a champ. Michelle and Greg have just returned from their Antartica trip and had very bad weather the boat was on its side most of the time and falling out of bed was quite a common thing. They had one expedition on the ice and enjoyed it, but it was very cold and extreme conditions. Where to next for you guys? Barry is well and looks much better. Take care. Love Us here in Sydney with a wopping 39 degrees today.
aaish its good good good, its nice
how! its soo preeety!
Brock and Sue
The amazing journey continues
What an amazing time the two of you are having. WE really enjoy your travel blogs which fill us with both admiration and envy!!! Continue to enjoy
Dear lisa and keith, have been following with great interest your travels around nz - it certainly looks a great place to explore all the best rory