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Forgot to mention yesterday's ice cream experience. Well, actually frozen yoghurt. Kiwifruit flavour. In Wanaka. Cheap as everywhere else and very yummy.
This morning we rose a fraction earlier to do the cereal and toast brekky shuffle. Left Wanaka not long after 8... maybe about 08:30 actually after stopping in town for some cheese for lunch and some tissues for Michelle's sniffly nose. Also filled up the tank with petrol for the long drive to glacier country.
First up we drove via Lake Hāwea along the Haast Pass road to the west coast. Driving through the Mount Aspiring National Park was pretty good - scenery comparable to the Milford road, but not quite as grand or close.
Over Haast Pass we descended the valley to Haast itself - a tiny town on the seashore. We stopped at a very well put together tourist info centre then at Haast Hotel for morning tea. Michelle had coffee and a date scone - I had a home made sausage roll (yummy) and a banana (bought the day before at Te Anau). I can really recommend the sausage rolls! It was about 11:30 so the drive from Wanaka had taken about 3 hours, along some of the windiest (curly, not blowy) roads we've seen yet! Very slow going in places!
Beach at Ship Cove
Next came the drive to Fox Glacier, another 120 km down the track. We stopped at Ship Cove and Knight's Point (or something like that) lookouts along the way. Ship Cove was basically a grey, sandy beach with lots of driftwood and heaps of sandflies. Not too bad a view, but we skipped the 30 minute walk to the real lookout point. I got bitten a few times.
Knight's Point was better - not only because I applied the bug repellent liberally before getting out of the car. The view was excellent from right near the car park and we snapped some pics.
From there the road went inland a bit to Fox Glacier. We reached the glacier road turnoff before Fox Township so we drove up there to the car park at the end. A 30 minute walk out to the glacier itself followed. We went up over some moraine to avoid a dangerous (marked) rockfall zone and then down to within 3-400 metres of the ice itself. We couldn't go any further because of the rockfall danger. But still, it looked good. On the walk back to the car, I sampled some water from a stream falling down the valley side to join the Fox meltwater. The stream was clear, while the glacier melt was whitish-green with suspended rock particles.
Snout of Fox Glacier
We stopped in Fox Glacier Township for a comfort stop, then headed a little way down the side road west to Lake Matheson - the famous lake where the reflective views of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman are all taken. The walk to the lake from the car park was marked as 30 minutes. Michelle decided to stay with the car (and incidentally have a fruit juice from the cafe there) while I trekked over to the lake. Some 15-20 minutes of jogging/fast walking later I saw the lake... non-reflective due to rippling if the surface caused by light wind - and also Mounts Cook and Tasman were obscured by cloud anyway! Not worth the effort - Michelle was smart to stay behind.
Oh, luckily we had actually seem the mountains earlier, stopping at the Mount Cook lookout not far before Fox Glacier. The view from there was good and cloud free. That's also where we had lunch - in the shade to beat the heat of the rainforest day. It really was quite amazing to see Fox Glacier down amongst such warMounth and rainforest growth - ferns and beech trees covered with moss/lichen all around it.
Anyway - back from Lake Matheson and on to Franz Josef Glacier. We headed over the mountains between the two glaciers along the slowest and curviest road yet, by far! The 24 km took about 35-40 minutes - but it was a fun road.
Franz Josef Glacier
At Franz Josef we first checked in to the YHA, then went into town to confirm our 9am helicopter flight. It was all go, but the guy asked if we'd like a 6pm flight - leaving in a short while. We declined, reasoning we'd be more awake to enjoy it tomorrow morning rather than after 8 hours on the road.
Franz Josef Glacier valley walls
So instead we drove up to Franz Josef Glacier and took the glacier terminal walk. Much flatter/easier than the Fox walk, and much more exciting at the end of it, as we got within almost touching distance of the ice! Took plenty of pics. I heard a huge chunk of ice fall off the glacier snout as I turned to walk away and turned in time only to catch a brief glimpse of movement. Oh well. We also saw an ice climbing group up on the glacier as we were leaving.
Snout of Franz Josef Glacier
Back to town and the YHA where we made rice and stir fry veg for dinner. Then I availed myself of the $1.25 double scoop ice cream on sale here at the YHA office... mmmmmmm... chocolate...
Showered, diaried, and bed... Tomorrow, helicopter!
Accommodation: YHA Franz Josef: $36.
Food and drink: $21.60.
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