The South Island has a small number of major highways, so it’s rather difficult to get lost, though we did manage to take the ‘scenic route’ a handful of times. The drive from Queenstown to the glaciers was a windy route (east to almost the center of the island, north past a lake, west over Lake Wanaka, north-west through a national park, and then mostly north along the coast for the remainder) but all on the same highway, passing by mountains and waterfalls before opening up to the beach.
Kris and Dal told us about this spot along the coastal highway at Bruce Bay. People stop and leave notes written on white rocks along the beach. They had left one on their drive down the coast, so of course Ryan and I had to find it on our drive up. Kris’s description of a big rock that looks like a basket was pretty spot-on.
We arrived at Fox Glacier late afternoon and hiked as close as is possible without a guide. The glacial area is very prone to rockfalls, so the allowable hiking routes can change daily. There were waterfalls all around and a towering wall of ice (much covered with gravel), that is unfortunately receding yearly. It is very evident from the rock/tree dividing line that the glacier used to extend much further.
The following day was spent at Franz Josef Glacier, originally planned to include a five hour strenuous hike to a point above the glacier. We woke up, packed up, and moved the campervan to a parking lot directly across the road from the trail head. We cooked a delicious ‘breakfast of champions’ (Ryan’s terminology), including omelettes with steak, cheese, and avocado. We made hearty sandwiches and packed lunches. We were ready to embark on a strenuous hike. We walked across the road and about 10 meters down the path, and saw a sign that the trail was closed due to flood damage and rock slides. Not giving up yet, I insisted on crossing the swing bridge to take a look at the route. The masses of yellow tape blocking the way pretty much sealed the deal. Ah well, at least we were prepared .
Plan B was to hop on a nearby trail, taking us through a wooded rainforest with lovely songbirds, up to the short path to the glacier. Similar to Fox, the glacier is receding, and visitors can only get so close. The only way to actually get on Franz Josef Glacier is by helicopter.
P.S Ryan decided he should try vegemite. The second picture says it all.
P.P.S. Additional scenic coastal pictures.
P.P.P.S. My dad mentioned on the phone tonight that we should say we are home, so . . . We are home . Ryan and I got home a little over two weeks ago. Sadly, it already feels like so much time has passed since this amazing trip, but finishing up the blog is helping us re-live the last few days in New Zealand.