from Franz Josef to Queenstown

TUESDAY, 1st November

Can you believe that this photo was taken the next day after getting wet on the glacier? The South Island is making me crazy with its weather!

You could clearly see beautiful mountains around Franz Josef township and this was the day when we were leaving. We started getting into this routine of being on the road, another motel, another complementary muffin… not really, but it would be nice to get one from time to time.

Next stop was Lake Matheson near the Fox Glacier after conquering winding road. B. was an amazing driver! But we didn’t take the whole 1.5 hrs walk around the lake, just a short one to the nearest view point, which was pity, because the best view of the lake was from the other side. Our goal was to get to Queenstown at reasonable hour. I’m guessing the mountain on the left is Mt Cook.

More views from the road. Fox Glacier. View from the Historic Bridge.

As soon as the girls saw a beach, we stopped, they changed into swimming costumes, took their towels and lied flat on the beach. It was windy, I don’t like sunbathing and wasn’t in the mood for it. It wasn’t a good spot for swimming too, and I was a bit angry that we were in a hurry at the Lake and now we stopped doing nothing, but I guess B. needed some sleep after driving through a difficult road. I took a walk along the beach to avoid being eaten by sandflies. And I had an interesting encounter. I met a woman catching whitebait. It was the end of the season, so she didn’t have much, but it was nice to talk to her.

The road from that point was much easier to drive on and it was really beautiful with small and bigger waterfalls. To some falls you had to walk and some were literally falling next to the road.

Roaring Billy Falls

In Wanaka, we had burgers and chips outside and I got new friends. They were eating from my hand! I love sparrows.

Wanaka is a pretty town thanks to its location. It’s by Lake Wanaka with mountains in the background.

It was our last day with Spanish J. He wanted to stay in Wanaka a couple days, so we said goodbyes and head down to Queenstown. I quickly forgot about Wanaka, when I saw Queenstown. But about that city more in the next post, because it was already an evening and we just found our hostel and made ourselves comfortable. In the kitchen there was still some free soup, which I really enjoyed although it was a bit hot. Some people were watching Blow with Johnny Depp. It was funny to see Cliff Curtis, a Maori actor playing a Columbian baddie. Maori actors need a job, too, right?

Franz Josef Glacier

MONDAY, 31st October

In Chile, they’ve got glaciers, so the girls didn’t want to spend their money to see something what they’ve got in their country. J. was running out of money, so I took the trip myself. It was raining when I was booking a half day tour to Franz Josef Glacier with Franz Josef Glacier Guides. It cost $123 and Glacier Hot Pools were included in the price, which was good, because I was planning to go there anyway.

The tour was starting at 12:30 p.m., but I had to come about 15 minutes earlier. First, I had to read and sign a paper saying I was aware of the danger and risk I was taking going to the glacier and I was healthy enough to do that. Then I got a waterproof over-trousers (you cannot wear jeans), socks and boots, crampons, a rain jacket, and a hat and gloves (which I didn’t need them, it wasn’t that cold).

When we were all dressed up, we got on a bus and they took us to the Glacier which was a couple kilometers away. First we walked through the bush from the car park to the river. Then we could see the glacier but it was still far away, so to get to the ice level, we had to walk for about less than an hour. We were divided into three groups according to our fitness. I chose the middle group, because the first one looked pretty fit and I didn’t want to slow them down.

The walk was great. We were surrounded by the mountains, which we couldn’t completely see, with waterfalls looking like threads

The weather wasn’t great, but it wasn’t raining all the time and after all, it wasn’t that bad.

Before we started our walk on the glacier, we put the cramps on.

And for about two hours we were walking around the lower parts of the glacier, which was a huge mountain of dirty ice with beautiful blue parts. We could taste the water streaming from the mountain and it was the sweetest water I’d ever tried.

At one point our guide found a tunnel, but one end was too small to get out of it, so he chopped off some ice and tested the ride. The bottom of the tunnel was wet, muddy, but it was a great fun to slide through it. 😀

When we were coming back to the car park, the clouds uncovered a little bit of cleaner ice in the upper levels of the glacier and the mountains around us.

After I got back to the hostel at about 5:30 p.m., had something quick to eat while sharing with my experience with my companions and then I took my swimsuit and spent that evening in the hot pools.

It was C.’s turn to cook dinner. I was being spoiled.

Truman Track, Hokitika and Ross

SUNDAY, 30th October

My back was better next day, but I had a small accident with my head later in the morning. The South Island is checking my strength and health, apparently.

After we had checked out, we went to Truman Track which was near Punakaiki. We walked through the bush and came to the beach.

There was a warning that some rocks might be slippery, but we started climbing them anyway.

I trusted my shoes too much and of course… slipped and hit a rock with my head before I’d realized what was happening. I didn’t lose the conscience, but when I touched my forehead, I could feel a huge hump over my right eyebrow. It looked bad, but thanks to cold pebbles from the beach and later some ice from the tavern this…

…looked like this on the next day.

I was afraid that I’d have a huge bruise in all the colours of the rainbow for the next couple days, but you can see nothing! I also thought how lucky I was with this fall. What if I hit in more sharper corner of the rock or with different part of my head and died and end up like the dead little seal I saw on that beach? I wouldn’t want to spoil my friends’ holiday. Or what if I broke my glasses and some glass would get to my eye? Luckily, none of those dark scenarios happened and I got away with a little bit of a headache.

Going further south, we stopped for lunch in Hokitika.

One of the travelers I’d met told me to try whitebait. She couldn’t explain to me what it was, but she said that I must try it. I read in my guide book that Hokitika is the capital of whitebait, so I ordered whitebait sandwich. It was pattie between two pieces of toast bread. When I took a bite, I saw eyes. I’m not get used to eating food which has eyes. Whitebait is actually small fish and when we went to museum,

there was an exhibition about catching whitebait and there was some dry whitebait there.

Hokitika is also famous for greenstone art. There were a lot of shops with jewelry and you could buy workshops and make your own design. What else I can recommend to you in Hokitika? Great coffee in Café de Paris and promise me you go to Sweet Alice’s Fudge Kitchen, but not only to try fudge, but also have awesome ice cream from ice cream machine which I think remembers my granny’s young years (same thing with the till, so vintage and works!). I had boysenberry flavor, yum!

Then we went to Ross, a town which had their best years during gold fever. It was totally quiet now, but we had a good time there anyway. 😉

Before we got to Franz Josef, I knew we were getting closer to glaciers, when I saw water in a river.

We stayed at Chateau Franz, which wasn’t really a castle, but had a free spa and as soon as we left our luggage in our room, we put our swimsuits on and jumped into hot water. We could stay there till 8 p.m.

As a perfect ending of that day, Spanish J., cooked delicious dinner. I did the dishes. 🙂