Queenstown, Mount Cook, The Glaciers and the Rest

Unfortunately the rain which started the evening before didn’t stop during the night and so it was still raining when we got up which meant that for the first time we needed to pack our tent in full rain. As you can imagine this was good fun to start the day.

About two hours later we reached Queenstown – adrenaline capital of the world. As it was still raining we cut off the planned luge ride and had a look at the underwater observatory (basically seeing some fishes and diving ducks) and snacked at Cookie Times instead. After that we continued our journey through rainy, mountainous scenery northwards to Twizel where we stayed for the night.

Luckily the sky had cleared overnight and we had perfect weather for our day trip to Mount Cook. Already the fifty kilometer drive along Lake Pukaki offered spectacular views of the nearby mountain ranges and we stopped several times to take pictures. Our four hour hike up the Hooker Valley was a real highlight. The path led along two suspension bridges and offered a lot of alpine beauty. After having a picnic with the glacier in sight we headed back to our car and on the way even saw a helicopter bringing material for a new bridge up the valley (a lot of spectacle). In addition Kevin once again managed to burn his head quite badly as he took off his beanie halfway and had forgotten his hat in the car.

The rest of the afternoon we spent driving south again to Wanaka where we would stay at the very nice Aspiring Campervan and Holiday Park.

After a good sleep and some relaxing at the campground we headed to Puzzling World a museum of illusion with a quite big maze. The museum was refreshingly low tech and we were amazed by the various illusions presented. The maze was good fun too and occupied us for a good ninety minutes (okay, Kevin was occupied a bit longer than Hazel).

The next day we aimed for the West Coast where we wanted to see Fox and Franz Joseph Glacier. On the way to Haast we stopped several times at various look outs to enjoy Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea as well as at a series of waterfalls. From Haast it was another two hours drive to Fox Glacier where we stayed for the night (not on the glacier but in the town with the same name).

After a cold night in the tent we were up and running to explore the region. First we walked around Lake Matheson which offered reflection of (the backside of) Mount Cook which was unfortunately mostly covered in clouds. Afterwards we wanted to have a look at the glacier itself. A forty-five minute walk led us to the edge of the glacier – although being relatively small (compared to Swiss glaciers) the sight was impressive. Impressive and shocking was also the sign who showed were the glacier was in 1930 – it was at least one kilometer away from the current glacier edge.

A thirty minutes drive brought us to Franz Joseph Glacier (which looks about the same as Fox Glacier) where after having a look at the glacier we indulged ourselves in the local hot pools. As we needed to catch the inter-island ferry in two days time we needed to move on another two and a half hours to Greymouth.

The last day on the South Island was spent driving 360 kilometers from Greymouth to Picton and once again we had the chance to drive through superb coastal and mountain landscapes. We also couldn’t resists to revisit the penguins at Cape Foulwind (see earlier entry) including a big ice cream. As it was Chinese New Year we decided to have our own little hot pot at the campground in Picton and we have to say it was quite yummy (besides having no Abalone)

The next day it was time to say good-bye to New Zealand’s South Island as we boarded the Interislander Ferry from Picton to Wellington.

As you hopefully can sense from our entries the South Island is really a fantastic place with one natural highlight after the other. Where else in the world can you see penguins, seals, glaciers, fantastic coast lines and lush forests in so close proximity? Definitely a place we want to revisit again one day. But for now we were off to the North Island.

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