We’ve had a fantastic few days driving down the W. Coast of the S. Island past a million lookouts (which we failed to photograph). We stopped off in Franz Josef, spent a couple of days on a sheep farm and we arrived to the hubbub that is Queenstown last night.
Last we posted, we were overnighting in a restored undertaker’s cottage in Kumara. After leaving that cottage we stopped off at the hokitika gorge and learned that the blue water is actually glacial milk! The sign told us that the glacier water flows down into the Hokitika gorge from various waterfalls and then mixes with a bit of minerals to become opaque turquiose. Of course we had to go see this miracle of nature and here are some photos so you don’t miss out.
After we left the Hokitika Gorge, which really could do with a coffee van at the super crowded parking lot, we continued along our driving tour until we arrived at the super amazing, can’t miss, Franz Josef Glacier. It was pouring rain and pretty cold when we left the car park and embarked on our 1.5 hour tramp to see the terminal face of the glacier which has receded quite considerably in the last few years. My recommendation would be skip the walk completely, spend the big bucks and do a helicopter tour (in the warmth). Luckily, we had our super fancy yachting jackets to keep us dry (at least our top half anyway). It definitely started raining harder right before we made it to the exquisite-not-to-be-missed glacier viewpoint which was probably 5 km at least from the glacier itself. Wearing jeans was not a good idea for this walk and Andy did it in shorts because he is hardcore. We hurried away from the glacier after being amazed and had some delicious lunch in the back of our steadfast and dry little rental car. We then proceeded to the Glacier hot pools which we enjoyed for a few hours so we could defrost. The hot pools have nothing to do with glaciers aside from location and are 3 giant spa baths at various degrees which were quite crowded when we went, but still enjoyable.
We stayed in an amazing airbnb in Franz Josef town and the hosts, Simon and Takoha were really friendly. I especially liked that the rooms are named after native NZ birds and the house was massive and beautifully finished in timber and brass. It was really cloudy so we didn’t have a chance to see the amazing views out the back of their property.
After leaving Franz Josef, we continued down the road and stopped off at a viewpoint of Fox Glacier which we could drive to because we are lazy then we had a long day of more driving until we arrived in Shingle Creek at an airbnb on a sheep farm. Our hosts for the next 2 nights were Jack and Dee and we had a good time relaxing in the hammock out the front and having some drinks in the spa on their property.Enroute to Shingle Creek we stopped off for the glacier view, picked up some fresh salmon at a salmon farm, saw a bunch of rock towers at fantail falls (the falls weren’t photo worthy as they were trickling) and saw someone jump off a swing bridge into the freezing, yet beautifully clear water at blue pools. We also picked up a couple of young hitchhikers who had just finished a 3 day hike and were super grateful to us for dropping them off along the way.
^ Blue Pools
After a couple of days surrounded by sparse brown mountains and a couple of wandering sheep, it was time to set off from Shingle Creek and drive through the central Otago wine region (without stopping) I know, surprising, right? Then it was time to conquer the shotover jet boat which passes within inches of the canyon walls and does 360 degree spins. We went twice and it was extremely fun. Andy was pretty scared the first go around, but that’s because he was thinking what could possibly go wrong at high speeds? The jet boat drivers train pretty extensively and this specific jetboat propulsion system was invented by a Kiwi and the jet boat designed by another Kiwi. Regardless, they pull in quite a bit of money at that place and even try to sell you photos and video at the end. We of course bought the photos. The bridge at the beginning of the canyon is named after a WWI nurse ( Edith Cavell) who was killed saving several hundred others. A local miner painted her name in bright red across the bridge and the government then had to name it after her.
After the Shotover jetboat we decided to take a drive to Glenorchy. We passed another hitchhiker and picked her up as she was going to do the routeburn track to Milford Sound. We went to the beginning of this track (since we were already there) and did an hour nature walk through some trees and our little silver bullet made it without any drama on the gravelly rutted road for 10km. We are definitely getting good use and mileage out of the little mazda even if it does red line up mountains. We are currently in Queenstown for the next few days relaxing and plan to discover Fiordland on Thursday.
So far so good!
-Andy & Bre