We spent the morning catching up with Leah and Stephen over some breakfast boiled eggs, bananas, and toast before saying goodbye to our hosts, packing up the car, and heading on our way. According to Google, the drive would be 3 hours and 1 minute, but we quickly learned that it is a liar. We can’t really fault it though because our drive was in and out of New Zealand’s Southern Alps where cell phone signal was nonexistent. So when Google says the drive is 3 hours and 1 minute, they mean it is 3 hours and 1 minute if you are going 100 kmph the entire time. Judging by the number of switchbacks, cliff-grabbing roads, and slow campervans 3 hours and 1 minute would not happen.
Rather than push ourselves we took the picturesque drive at a leisurely pace stopping every now and then to take in a view of Lake Wanaka, going on a 20 minute hike to the Blue Pools, and see some waterfalls up close and personal. By 1 p.m. we were in Haast, the halfway point on the coast of the Tasman Sea. With the assistance of the Department of Conservation, Leah picked up a tramping guide though not without some confusion with the attendant on what a “hiking map” was. We hoped to find some lunch in town but were unsuccessful. Ok, that’s somewhat of a lie. We could either have a sit-down lunch with $20+ plates or get fried squid on a stick. Needless to say we weren’t thrilled by either option so we opted to eat more hardboiled eggs and granola bars to hold us over.
The majority of the second half of the drive took us along the coast of the Tasman Sea. We stopped at a “not to be missed lookout” where we saw some nice rock formations jutting out of the water, but to Doug and Lynn, it was really just a less spectacular version of the Great Ocean Road.
By 2 p.m. we had reached Fox Glacier Township, where we promptly found some food to sustain us for the 20,000 steps we intended to conquer that day. Sufficiently full, we headed off to set our eyes on the first of two glaciers we would see in the region, Fox Glacier. Down the trail road we went, passing sign after sign pointing out where the glacier once extended to before reaching the parking lot where we would begin our trek.
We donned our packs full of water and our wide-brimmed hats before heading into the valley of silica rocks and boulders and a fast flowing river of gray opaque water surrounded by cliffs. The track was pretty straight forward leading us up the valley to an overlook of the Fox Glacier, a dirty snow mound that looks like it was left over in the Framingham Walmart parking lot after a winter of snowstorm after snowstorm. Ok, yes. It was significantly bigger than any snow pile we had ever seen, but that did not make it any more beautiful. At least the end closest to us. Looking up the valley a bit more you could see some pure white snow… more beautiful.
We returned to the car and headed off for the next hike which would take us to a Chalet overlooking the glacier. The hike took us over the grey river, through the rainforest, and up switchbacks to a nice overlook allowing us to see more white than black on the glacier… much better. Continuing up more switchbacks for another 5 minutes took us to a point in the trail where it was now gated and locked off. We could continue no further thanks to irreparable trail damage. A bit sad, we headed back to Lacey before continuing back into town for, of course, ice cream.
Deciding that we had not yet done enough classy tramping, we decided the next plan of action would be to complete the 4.4 km Lake Matheson walk. Heading that way we soon found that there is a Mount Cook lookout nearby so we made the quick detour to take in more stunning views (again no black snow) before returning to the Lake Matheson car park.
Noting the time we realized that we only had 2.5 hours to complete the walk, drive to Franz Josef, and check into our hostel before they closed for the night. This put a bit of a spring in our step and led us into a group competition to determine how much time we would need to complete the route. According to the sign it would be 1.5 hours. Doug said 45 minutes. Stephen said 50. Leah said 53 and Lynn said 57. We walked at a fast pace, briefly taking in the mirrored peaks (not so mirrored due to the breeze over the water) at a few stops before returning in 50 minutes. Damn that Stephen.
Tramping done for the day, we made our way to Franz Josef where we checked in to our hostel. We weren’t too excited about the prospect of sharing a 6-person dorm room with 2 others (or the dorm room itself), but what can you do when you book lodging last minute during a holiday? We then picked up some lunch items at the nearby Four Square, before sharing Monster Nachos and dinner at The Landing, then headed to bed (without our 2 friends having yet appeared) for some shut eye before tomorrow’s big day.
Daily Walking Mileage: 11.4
- Both Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are rapidly retreating. The behavior is being attributed to global warming. Bah.
- Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand at 3724 meters.
- Hiking in New Zealand is called “tramping.” Since we are basically middle schoolers, the four of us find this term hilarious. So, we have decided to gussy-up the term a bit by calling what we are doing “classy tramping” or “clamping” for short.