New Zealand Wrap Up

Friday, 22 February 2008

So I’m in a condo on the 16th floor, overlooking some prime Melbourne real estate with the bay in the distance. Eight lanes of traffic are roaring by far below. Big change from New Zealand, as there were no freeways there. In summary, New Zealand was awesome, 2 weeks is not enough time to visit there, and I need to go back to see the rest of it. In Australia now to start anew…….

Day 10

Woke up, rolled Spaceship Neil down to Matheson Café, which was supposed to be the best breakfast in town. Good, but nothing special. Nothing in NZ can touch Mama’s Café back home. That is a real breakfast. Anyway, the highlight for today was (a) that it didn’t rain, and (b) I took a guided 7 hour glacier hike. We had a group of 11 people- our group got two guides that day, Sophie and Matthew. They did a great job of showing us around the ice. This trip was definitely worth the price (don’t remember how much it was exactly, maybe around $160NZ) Fox Glacier is melting on its surface, but it is actually getting thicker and getting longer at this point in time. Met some really cool folks on this trip; including Ms. A. She was headed the same places as I was, except by bus. Sticking to my mantra of no more stinky dude hitch hikers, I offered her a ride the next day. Since I am slightly cooler than a bus of old people, she accepted.
After cooking some dinner, took a hike around Lake Matheson to capture the photo of sunset and the lake. Well worth an hour of hiking. Then off to the shower and to the bar. They have excellent beer in New Zealand- great local ales.

Day 11

If ever there was a day of visual overload, it was today. Ms. A and myself met at the café and loaded up Neil and went south. In a sure sign of small town glacier village, I had met the young lady working the café counter at the bar the previous evening; and Ms. A was on a first name basis with her.
Within 20 km of leaving the glacier, we were driving along the beach…. and then lakes… and then to Knight’s Point. When we saw Knight’s Point, I believe our reactions were along the lines of ‘holy sh*t’. The water was blue beyond description, waves crashing far below, just freaking amazing. So then we drive a little further to Ship Creek- so named because pieces of a ship wreck near Melbourne washed up on the beach in this location in the late 1800’s. Anyway, there were 2 hikes here- the rainforest / swamp hike and the beach hike. We did both. The rainforest was amazing when you actually slowed down to take it all in. From tiny plants that look like miniature trees to huge trees, just freaking amazing to see. We were the only people on the swamp hike, so we thought the beach hike must be pretty good. It was.
Driving onward, we head off the main road to the fishing village of Jackson Bay. At the recommendation of the gas station lady, we stopped along the way at Neil’s Beach, which is where the locals go to the beach. Freaking amazing- blue water, hills along the coast, warm sun, it was hard to leave. On down the road in the village was Craypots- a seafood restaurant in a house trailer, next to the fishing pier, overlooking the bay…. They cooked a good piece of fish. Ran into a fellow Glacier Hiker at Craypots, he was headed south also and had heard of this hidden gem.
Going further off the main drag, we took a 20km detour down a gravel road to see the Cascade River overlook, this gravel road is the most southern road along the west coast of NZ. After that there are no roads, just National Park. Anyway, saw some cool mountains and some cool rivers. The mountains here were unique in that they have so much iron and manganese that vegetation will not grow on them. (Sounds like good candidates for a little strip mining!)
Then it was back on the main drag, headed away from the coast to the Southern Alps. That’s what they call the mountain range here. Drove along beautiful, pristine mountain streams, saw some great scenery- mountains etc. Stopped at a couple of waterfalls to click a few pics. Then we crossed the mountain pass and found ourselves driving next to these awesome mountain lakes. Just freaking amazing. I delivered Ms. A to her hostel, I found a camping spot and headed to the pub to sort through some photos. I actually got scolded by some lady for plugging in my laptop to their electricity, so I took my business elsewhere.

Day 12

I slept in, got some breakfast, and then hiked up Mt. Roy. 11km round trip, 1240 meters change in elevation- steep trail. I got some pretty mean blisters going up this one, but the pictures and the view were worth it.

Day 13

Rob Roy Glacier. Drove to Mt. Aspiring National Park to see this glacier. Saw some cool stuff, took some good pictures. Drove to Queenstown.

Day 14

Drove, took pictures, chilled.

Day 15 Wed

Chilled out- returned camper van Neil to his people.

Day 16

Breakfast with the good Dr., paid bills on-line, caught a plane to Australia. Cell phone doesn’t yet work in AUS, but managed to rendezvous with Sara anyway. I managed to stumble into what she considered to be the best bar / restaurant in the area as a meeting place.


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