This is the longest driving day of the trip. Mark is definitely getting comfortable driving in New Zealand, although I still hear him muttering to himself “Lefty McLefterson” from time to time, reminding himself to stay on the left. So today we drive from Takaka all the way to the Franz Joseph Glacier, about 450k, with a brief stop at Punakaiki, famous for the pancake rocks, which were definitely worth the stop.
The drive through the west coast is desolate, with hardly any gas stations, restaurants or towns for hundreds of miles. We finally arrive at Franz Josef at 8:30 pm, exhausted but exhilarated because it seems that in just a few miles the terrain has changed from coastal to alpine. The clouds part for just a moment for us to see the amazing peaks of the southern alps,
and we are so excited we drive right past our hotel straight up to the glacier. We get to the car park just before dark, and decided to jog up to the glacier viewing spot (just a quick 10 minutes). It’s amazing, giant, and surround by beautiful snow-covered peaks and a few waterfalls.
When we get back to our car we find a Kea bird on the roof. The Kea is the world’s only alpine parrot. He’s a totally curious, very intelligent-looking giant parrot—so cool!
We go back to our Glow Worm Cottage hotel and I catch up on work the rest of the night. We are up early doing more work and trip planning (we book our flight to Aussieland as well as our flight back to Auckland to meet up with Erica), and then head off to see the Franz Josef Glacier in the daylight. This is my first time up close to a glacier, and for a few minutes I kinda think, big deal, it’s just snow, but then we read about what a glacier is and I begin to understand that basically I’m looking at a frozen river that is moving ever so slightly as I watch it. This particular glacier is what’s left of an enormous glacier that sculpted the valleys around us, and it still shifts greatly depending on the snowfall and temperatures each year. I begin to contemplate that and I have to admit it’s pretty cool.
Then, back in the car to Fox Glacier, which is just 20K away. This is another beautiful glacier, and were are able to get a bit closer and see some glacier pools, which are beautiful.
We also stop for a picnic lunch at Lake Mattheson, which was recommended to us by our friends who used to live here. Mark runs around it while I plop down and take a break. It’s pretty, but unfortunately Mt. Cook is covered in clouds so we miss the famous view.