Here is a pretty quick recapping of my first few days of 2012 on the South Island.
After an early morning wakeup, Hung, Markus and I were on the ferry leaving Wellington, heading to the South Island.
Half way into the 3 hour journey, you lose sight of the North Island.
And say hello to the South Island.
We passed another ferry. They really look like cargo vessels or something, rather than car ferries. Their interiors were nicely decorated though, and you get reclining seats and everything. The ferry was PACKED with people though – it is high tourist season now.
Once on the south Island, there wasn’t much to stop us for the first few hours of driving. From Nelson onwards there isn’t much to see until you hit the west coast, several hours later. Once there, we made a stop at Cape Foulwind.
The cape also hosts a seal colony.
And some pretty good sized waves.
A signpost giving mileage to everywhere. Just in case you wanted to travel to Paris today. I’d like to point out that at none of these signposts has Toronto listed. Vancouver has been listed every time. Further proof that Toronto ISN’T the center of the universe. 😉
Two last views of the cape and nearby Tauranga Bay.
Continuing south along the coastline, we made another short scenic stop as we were nearing Punakaiki.
Punakaiki is home to rather interesting rocks, called the Pancake Rocks.
They became more numerous and impressive as you walked the track.
There were also neat rock formations for the sea to come pounding through.
And then you amongst the main area of the Pancake Rocks.
The sea was impressively violent here.
Upon leaving, I was disappointed that the cafe at the Pancake Rocks parking area was closed – I was curious if they served pancakes. A mystery to be solved another time I suppose.
A few hours later, at 930pm, we finally arrived at Fox Glacier. It was an exhaustingly long day (I was up at 530am).
The next day was to be spent exploring the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers. The weather had other ideas. Rain and low clouds obscured and dampened spirits when we arrived at Franz Josef Glacier.
The rain gave nice waterfalls though.
As close to Franz Josef Glacier as you can get for free – from here you need a guided glacier walk tour, which none of us were up for in the weather. You couldn’t see much.
Another waterfall. I did love the clear/bluey water.
Then it was a 30 minute drive back to Fox Glacier, which had a much more impressive drive and hike to the glacier face. The valley that the glacier had carved was immense.
We could also get closer to the glacier here and it seemed more impressive to all involved.
Looking back to where we had walked from.
And a panorama showing Fox glacier and where it had carved through the valley.
One last close-up of the glacier face.
The weather never let up all day unfortunately. A hike around Lake Matheson was scrapped – that hike is famous for its reflective views of Mt. Cook. There was no chance of seeing any peaks today. And there would be no clean reflection in the lake. It was a pretty down day all round.
A new day brought drier weather, but no clearer skies. We took a quick detour to take one last look at Fox Glacier before heading onwards.
As we drove south, the weather rapidly changed. And following a hike out to Monro beach, the weather was now…a little different.
It was a lovely beach, but the infrequent inhabitants, Fiordland Crested Penguins, were nowhere to be found – we likely missed them by a week or so. Still, it was great to get some sunshine and there were some great rocks to climb amongst.
After that beach hike, we continued to Knights Point, a lookout spot along the roadside.
And then Ship Cove, another enjoyable beach.
Having had enough with beach walks, it was time to head inland through Haast Pass. The scenery changed from the serene ocean landscape to the dramatic.
There was a stop at Thunder Falls, a lovely waterfall cascading down into fake looking waters.
And then we popped out the other side, on the shores of Lake Wanaka.
After that, we made 2 more stops, one at Lake Hawea and the other at a series of rapids.
Finally, we had made it to Queenstown. A bustling, chaotic tourist-laden mess of a town, surrounding by stunning scenery. But more on that in the next update.