Wednesday, 26 December 2007

The Great Kiwi Road Trip - Day IV

Wanaka --> Fox Glacier --> Franz Josef --> Wanaka
582.2 km
21st December '07

The main reason we'd skipped out on South Island's famous Te Anau and Milford Sound was because there was only enough time for either Fiordland or the glaciers. All three of us had been to the other famous fjords on the planet, so we figured let's go for something new. The trouble with the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers is that they are completely out of the way for a trip from Invercargill to Christchurch (we were not at much liberty to change those end points). And neither place offers much by way of accomodation.A planned return trip meant a very early start. With breakfast packed for on-the-run consumption and some people deeming morning coffee a basic need to life, 6:30 was quite a good job. A moment of blindness induced by the sun rising over a hump on the road and right into my eyes caused a bit of a flutter, but as soon as the other major lake of the region, Lake Hawea came into view, everyone (except me :-<) went completely mad and for a while all you could hear were shutters releasing. Once we were past the lakes, however, the highway (not what you would expect, trust me, but definitely not the worst I have seen) picked its way by the banks of the Haast river, crossing it a few times. The final and most impressive of these was via a bridge called the Gates of Haast! (Very LOTR, yes. They did shoot the whole thing here, and once you get here, you know why.) The road winds its way across the Southern Alps but doesn't really get too high at any point, much to our disappointment. Eventually we got to the village of Haast on the west coast, which is probably significant only because of its fuel station. It's the last one for almost a hundred miles up to Fox Glacier. We didn't stop, but eventually pulled up at this little lookout called Knight's Point overlooking the somewhat craggy and very windswept coast of the Tasman Sea from a cliff. Strongly recommend giving the place a miss. The views are spectacular, no doubt, but the flies (or whatever the persistent buggers were) are highly avoidable. We got to Fox in pretty good time and the cascade of solid ice just sort of hanging there between the sheer mountain faces left us open mouthed for a bit. Okay, not the geologist woman :|. Geologists are like biologists I tell you, find something really cool and interesting and they give you the name, the characteristics, the whole life history :|. Well, I wasn't really complaining, we pretty much had our own tour guide :D. A lot of shots of fantastic blue ice and dirty disgusting looking morain, and we were back in the car just as the sky started dripping. We headed out to the much acclaimed Lake Matheson, but the clouds refused us the spectacular mirror-view of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman. With still a lot of time on our hands we headed off to Franz Josef. Here the setting proved a lot more spectacular. The walk up to the ice was somewhat more difficult and ended a whole lot farther away than at Fox where, at 80m, we could practically feel the glacier! And yes, glacial is the right word for it :P. Once again the rain was just in time for us to be safely back in the shelter of the car. That is when I finally figured that up until then what I'd assumed to be my hogging of all the driving, was in fact also John's rather strong aversion to it! Which suited me just fine :D. We were retracing a significant length of road for the only time in the trip, and since the views were already familiar, I concentrated on having an absolute blast with the drive :D. Close to 600km on a single day had to take its toll and John had us rolling on the floor with his vivid predictions of us falling from the sky the next day, mouths hanging open, fast asleep :D.
(was) Feeling: tired but blissful
Listening to: Jewel - Hands

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