Glaciers to Greymouth (NZ Day 7)

3:30 AM – the alarm goes off and we wait to see if we’ll be heading out to try to capture the quintessential image of Lake Matheson and Mount Cook. Alas, the rain hasn’t stopped… BUT that also means more sleep, yippee!

One thing to note is that I never did get to see Mount Cook. We had a few chances from various perspectives… from the south at Lake Pukaki and from the West at Fox Glacier. Cie la vie… “next trip!” :)

After a few more hours of quality sleep we pack up and head out to the next glacier up the road - Franz Joseph.  We opted for a light hike up to sentinal viewpoint- it was a bit wet and for some reason we kept forgetting to put on our rain pants!  Silly us!  No matter, the valley was amazing and would make a fun hike up to the glacier on another trip with a bit more time.

Franz Joseph Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacier-Close

Franz Joseph Glacier – you can see the blue in the glacier. this is where the rivers get all their amazing color – the rock powder created by the glaciers.

The western coast varies greatly and as we drove on we quickly left the mountains and found some flat valleys and the town of Hokitika where we stopped for lunch at a cafe (more fish and chips) before continuing on to Hokitika Gorge. We were supposed to see an amazingly blue river from the swing bridge but as you can see all the rain has made the river a very dirty blue. Another “must see” for the next trip!

Heidi Hiking at Hokitika

Heidi at Hokitika

Hiking at Hokitika

Barb and Matt hiking at Hokitika

Something interesting to point out are all the roundabouts and 1 lane bridges… while it took me most of the south island to get a good understanding of how the roundabouts worked, when i saw this sign i understood pretty quickly who would have right of way….

Roundabout sign

Crazy roundabout – sharing it with trains!

And all over the South Island are the 1 lane bridges… now normally they have a sign that indicates who has right of way by the larger arrow… once again we found a situation that didn’t require a lot of thinking… us, them, TRAIN.  I was glad we didn’t have to experience it but it was slightly unnerving to drive on the 1 lane bridge w/ the train tracks!

1 lane bridge - train

Sharing bridges with trains too

We made our way to Greymouth where we finished our night by meeting up with Matt’s wife, kids and mother-in-law at the family home. It was great fun to meet everyone as I’d heard so much about all of them and had seen many a picture of them over the years. We enjoyed a lovely authentic kiwi dinner of leg of lamb, baked pumpkin, potatoes and veggies (YUM to all!) and thoroughly enjoyed an evening getting to know everyone and mostly getting to share in the quality grammy time. :)

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Haast Pass (NZ Day 6)

Our time in Queenstown had come to an end, so after our (now typical) morning stop at the BP to top off our Petrol and grab some meaty pies, we were back on the road to add a few more kilometers to the growing tally.

We headed north again – this time along Lake Hawea where we happened upon the southern 45th parallel. Interestingly, the 45th parallel in the northern hemisphere includes the Oregon/Washington area also known for its wines and similar climate.

New Zealand 45th Parallel

Southern Hemisphere 45th Parallel

We continued on past the north side of Lake Wanaka and were quickly heading up into the Haast Pass area. Once again i was surprised that the pass itself seemed quite low in altitude as we drove through low river valleys and tropical forests.  After just a few kilometers we did start to be gaining some altitude and with all the rain we’d been getting  there were now waterfalls EVERYWHERE… and what were normally streams or trickles were now raging torrents.

A quick stop at Fantail Falls broke up the drive up a bit, and gave us a chance to stretch our legs on the fast and light hike. We didn’t realize it but this set of falls were at least 2-3 times bigger than they normally are- it made for quite a sight!

Fantail Falls

Fantail Falls in the Haast Pass

I had read about another fun stop called the Blue Pools, a light 20-30 minute hike but seeing as the rain was getting heavier and we’d heard some stories about the dangers of the pass we decided to keep moving. All the rain continued to make things interesting – we’d seen a warning saying the pass would close due to construction but it can also be closed due to weather. In particular, the little trickles that run alongside the road or fall along the cliff sides can easily flood and wipe out roads, wash cars down the banks, and make things pretty treacherous.

We got to see the possibilities first hand as we encountered a construction crew working on a bit of road that seemed to be a bit precarious. It looked like they were worried about the road being slick from the spray as well as the weight in general in the turn of the road so they had us going 1 car at a time, slowly but keep moving and NO PHOTOS. That was of course after seeing our car full of photographers but that didn’t stop me from taking a few as we drove by the torrent literally just outside my window.

Construction in Haast Pass

Construction in Haast Pass

We quickly were out of the mountains and were immediately on the coast of the Tasman Sea. The rain let up slightly and as we were checking out the view I got my first exposure to sand flies. We weren’t on the beach, but oh were they out and about! I had reverted to flippies and so my poor exposed feet got their first taste of itchy scratchiness! BRUTAL!

Tasman Sea

Tasman Sea

Working our way up the coast we made it to Fox Glacier. It was still raining pretty hard so we opted to grab a yummy lupper (lunch/supper) at the Lake Matheson Cafe. Just as we were finishing, the clouds started to lift and we got our first real glimpse of the Southern Alps and Fox Glacier! We were very excited – I’d been hoping to get a glimpse of Mt. Cook/Aoraki and was happy to see some summits :) We snapped a few pics of the peaks and then made a mad dash over to the viewpoint for Fox and got our first southern glaciers in our view finders.

Fox Glacier

Mountains in and around Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

The rain and clouds returned so we finished the night catching up on some email and checking in with our loved ones at home (wifi, yay!)

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Lake Wanaka (NZ Day 5)

 

Back on the Crown Ridge Road after a night of rain, rain, rain, which means SNOW up high!

Remarkables w/ Snow!

We passed the Cardrona Hotel on the way to Lake Wanaka

Onward toward Wanaka. We walked through town for a few minutes and decided to head out to another winery and to get some more views of the area. After a bit of confusion (20 km out and back) we finally found the Rippon Winery (it’s just a few km from town but we totally missed it until i pulled it up on my iphone and mapped it out and realized we had passed it multiple times ha!).

Rippon Vineyard

Rippon Vineyard

We decided to drive back up our original detour to check out an area near Treble Cone where there are two 1,000 ft waterfalls. We drove along an area that was used for scenery from LoTR and didn’t even realize it until later, ha! They filmed everywhere!

Funky Stone Guys near Treble Cone

Twin Falls near Treble Cone

We worked our way back to QT as the weather was starting to roll in, BUT as we went over the pass it seemed to clear up so we decided to risk it and go up up the gondola in town.

View of Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu

Barb and QT!

Finished the evening with a stroll through Queenstown and some Indian for dinner back at the cabin. Another good day despite the rain!! :)

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