Sanity returned and we changed our arrival city for the next evening. After spending several hours on the beach of the Tasman Sea last evening, looking for green stone (jade) we decided to shorten our trip. I can recommend the South Beach Motel and Campground in Greymouth. At $85 US per night, it was clean, extremely clean, and worked just fine for us. The beach is just across a small dirt road from the sea. Sunset was terrific.
We left about 9 AM with a new destination of Lake Wanaka which is about 1 1/2 hours short of Queenstown, our original planned stop. We were able to secure a third award night at the Clarion in Wanaka and cancel the Crowne Plaza in Queenstown . It was a 10 hour day including stops through the most amazing scenery either of us have ever seen. The first hour or so was along the Tasman through farm land with yes, sheep and more sheep. We then moved into a tropical rain-forest setting with huge ferns, plants and trees and continued to hug the coast. We rose and fell along the mountain ridges until reaching the Franz Josef Glacier about 11:30 AM. It was a 15 minute hike to the end of the gravel trail where the Glacier was about 2 miles from us. Under the rope we climbed and headed closer across the out wash plain. After about 1 hour of tramping through the stones and boulders we stopped several hundred yards from the actual ice. There was a cavern created under the glacier and huge torrents of runoff were headed towards the sea. It was a 40 minute return down-slope past waterfalls and rivets of glacial melt. Humans are very small in comparison to a glacier. I have been to others in Norway, the Canadian Rockies and Alaska, but never standing in shorts in a tropical settings. Franz Josef Glacier was worth the stop.
Forty minutes later we passed the Fox glacier and pulled into the little town for lunch. The Hawaiian pizza was tasty and hot, at the first restaurant on the left, attached to the small mini-mart type store. The town was full of cyclists as a steady rain was pelting the roadways. The sign at the gas station indicated the last fuel for the next 120 kilometers.
We past through more valleys of farm land, tropical forests and generally hugged the coast until reaching Haast, a one gas station town before heading across Haast Pass to Lake Wanaka. The one gas station was very hectic with campers, the preferred mode of transportation in New Zealand by tourists. You can tell we are tourists because of these campers and the inability to turn on the turn signal as it is on the other side of the steering wheel. A tourist, us included, spends a lot of time turning off the windshield wipers. Another tell tale sign is not knowing which side the gas tank is on. It was a real comedy watching about 8 vehicles trying to line up for 4 pumps. Petrol is about $1.76 per liter NZ or about $80 NZ to fill our tank on the Nissan Wingroad Grocery Getter. There are no Hummers or SUV’s here.
The last two hours were the most magnificent as we climbed and crossed Haast Pass. The rivers and waterfalls, dense foliage severe dropoffs and above the treeline grasses were stunning. Again, the lack of people is amazing. I could travel for 10 minutes without seeing another car. After crossing the pass and heading towards Wanaka we caught our first glimpse of the lake. Surrounded by mountains with meadows on the shoreline it was absolutely beautiful. The lake has to be 30 miles long. We never saw a boat or house on the lake shore for the first 25 miles. Absolute tranquility. These places are spiritual to me. I realize how insignificant I am in the whole scheme of things, and truly appreciate the portions of our world, that have not yet been contaminated by man. Before I leave New Zealand, I’ll find out why it has not been discovered yet. Or maybe it has been, and the government has protected this absolute jewel.
So we sit now for the next two days, exploring and hiking, and hopefully catching a trout or two. Then on to Te Anua and the Fjordsland National Park.
New Zealand is a top three country for us now. We have never seen this much beauty in one country. Next time, we will head to the south end of the South Island right away. That would not be the choice for wine drinkers, who would stay further north. But we love the natural beauty, and it is all here. And a month in just the south, would not be near enough time.