I spent the spring semester of 2010 studying in New Zealand through the ISEP program. I used this blog to keep an account of my school experience and as a record of the adventures I found. Hopefully it can serve two purposes: to have kept my friends and family informed of my travels and experiences; as well as to serve as a reminder of how important the study abroad experience is, whether it's in New Zealand or not.
23 May 2010
Easter Break - Saturday 10/4/10 - Fox Glacier to Wanaka via the Haast
This day expects to fill itself with much driving and sightseeing at 100km/hr. Though as we should all know by now, I cannot drive that fast due to my own nerves and especially my fathers, but also because our little tin can only goes about 20km/hr uphill. We're up early to beat the German kids to the kitchen and get a jump on our travels. However, we just barely make it out to the car before they do it seems. We keep heading south and take the turn off to Fox Glacier for an early morning walk. We choose a trail that leads to the face of the glacier to get an idea of the overall picture. My dad never got a chance to see Franz Joseph from the front, so this is his opportunity to stare down the moving end of a giant pile of ice. Next we head down the road a way in the car to take another, slightly longer walk. This one will take us to a front view on the other side of the glacial river. By now we're starting to get a little tired of the same old forest type, but it's still beautiful. We walk to the chalet lookout, stopping to look at what's left of the chalet (just a rock/concrete formation, probably once was a fireplace) along the way. The lookout is at the end of what used to be access road to the glacier and passes through a rata/kamahi. Along the way we cross a river at a point where a moraine was dumped by the glacier in 1750. The lookout itself used to look down on the glacier about 100 years ago, before the glacier retreated so far back. Back in 2008 both the Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers were growing, since then they have been retreating slightly each year. The catchpoint for both these glaciers is in the same location. Before getting back in the car, we take one last little track detour and get a final look back at the glacier. Once we're back on the road, we plan for very little stopping along the way in order to make it to Wanaka before night time. However, we're quickly sidetracked (as is so easily accomplished in this amazing country) by a beach not mentioned in any guidebook or any iSite. The beach must be a mile or longer, though it's hard to really get the full picture. But it goes on and on with this rock wall, presumably to keep water off the road, but people have come and built every imaginable cairn and statue with rocks and sea debris. It's hard to put into words how simply cool this beach was. There are rocks that look like they have gold in them and rocks that are completely round, smooth, and white and just some simple, gray rocks. (I'll put some of the pictures at the end of this post, but you'll have to wait for the facebook album for all of them). The only downside to this beach is that it is covered in sand flies and my hands (the only exposed skin besides my face) are eaten before my eyes in a matter of minutes. These bites will last not only through the end of the trip, but there is still a scar from one on my hand as I'm writing this today. For lunch we stop at an incredibly beautiful overlook along the ocean. As usual I try to spot animals, but only see the occasional bird. Not even a Tui shows its face and I really want my dad to meet one of these wonderful birds. They make the most amazing noises and can be quite entertaining for surprisingly long periods of time. Another short way up the road we decide to stop for a waterfall. It's in the shade and amazingly cold. The water has that distinct cold, glacial, blue colour I'm beginning to recognize more and more. We finally make it to the Haast Pass (named after that explorer mentioned in the last post), which is the lowest pass through the Southern Alps. We stop just after the one way bridge (note to all you lucky Americans back home, all bridges here are one way, or at least almost all of them) to get out and take a look around. This place is known as the "Gates of Haast"where enormous boulders and steep walls line the gorge. Schist is the common rock in these mountains and it often crumbles at the gorge, so the road collapses and is closed quite frequently. Suddenly we emerge on the other side of the Alps and wind our way along the lakes to the town of Wanaka, which itself has a lake. This is a ski town and really thrives during the winter, which has not quite happened yet. They are however, settling into fall and the temperature has dropped quite noticeably since Nelson and even Franz Joseph. We check into one of the only hostels with open space, which turns out to be quite nice. It's quite neat and organized, each person who checks in gets their own set of dishes in a big plastic container. We take a walk around town and along the lake before cooking our dinner and planning for the next day and finally turning in for the night.