Erica dressed in her tights, three quarter length shorts and walking socks and shoes, and me in trousers rolled up over my knees and a pair of flip flops
. I wish we had photographs because the first ford crossing was a sight to behold, Erica with a rucksack on, two walking boots held by the laces with socks dangling out, whilst sat on my back as I waded through the water. We were in hysterics, after about 10 minutes walking the rain got heavier and as we were discussing calling it a day we saw the dust of a vehicle approaching. Was it a mirage? No it was actually another vehicle. Me stood in the rain with soaking wet fabric flip flops and trousers rolled up above my knees basically stood in the road, I’m sure with my woolly hat / cap and a big red beard the oncoming van needn’t have thought twice about knocking me down.
A young looking Dutch guy looked worried as I undid his passenger door and suggested I needed a lift down the rest of the track, Erica got thrown in the back and we drove to the start of the Rob Roy Valley track. We were so thankful to Mansell our Dutch host but he said he really enjoyed the company as he had been travelling on his own in NZ for about 5 months. He told us he would be much quicker than us on the walk but didn’t mind waiting to give us a lift back to our van. (I had explained that our van didn’t have the clearance to get through the water due to the protruding compartments under the car).
Well we set off first at a canter to try and make ground in front of Mansell but somehow ended up following a farmers track in the wrong direction for about 10 minutes
. I’m sure at this point the guy thought “oh my god they are the slowest walkers I have ever seen” as he over took us about 4 minutes from the start when we had been gone for 15 minutes. We followed the wonderful and powerful river until we got to another suspension bridge (for pedestrians only which is not uncommon in New Zealand). We than had a tough climb for about 1.5 hours but as always in South Island it rewards with amazing scenery. We felt very insignificant climbing alongside the river and waterfalls which were obviously formed through the Glacier itself. The size of the rocks were huge the biggest probably about 7m x 7m x 7m that had been sheared from the rock walls and dragged down the canyon by the glacier, when you considered the force needed to a break a piece of rock from the rock face then carry it down we both just felt so very, very insignificant. The Rob Roy Glacier was stunning and so very, very different to Fox or Franz Josef. Perched up a cliff face it just seemed to completely defy gravity, but it was so beautiful and surrounded by the hugest waterfalls. We counted at least 20 waterfalls in total some flowing the full height of the mountain it was simply incredible.
The walk back down was much, much easier and we got back to find Mansell waiting for us with the kettle on ready to make us the strongest black coffee I think I have ever drank
. He gave us a lift back to our van and we headed straight off. When we got back to the town we took the scenic road towards Queenstown which apparently is awash with filming locations for Lord Of The Rings, sadly it is lost on us as we must be the only ones never to have seen it. After some stunning views and lookouts we finally rolled into Queenstown which is instantly likeable. We approached the i-site to find the cheapest campsite with showers and thankfully it was only $10 (£5) a night each. It is brand new and has only been open a few days so all the kitchens and things are brand new. We did all our washing and finally had a shower. It is odd to smell clean again.
We had a tea of pasta and sank a few red wines with a couple from down South and some Irish folks as well. While Erica went to bed early I stayed up too late with my new friends and got incredibly drunk staggering back to the van at god knows what time.
We left the site before seven but the smell of us was even making ourselves sick (Erica in particular is now almost at 8 or 9 days without an actual shower I think I am only at 5 days, plus the wet wipes are nearly gone. We had a luxury breakfast courtesy of the New World bakery counter of pan au chocolat. We took our position at the lake front and read the weather forecast of heavy rain and thunder but thought better of it and decided we had to do the Rob Roy Glacier walk today or never (Erica even suggested doing about 280km extra to do it on a better day). I tried to hire a bike to ride the last 8km from the ford but couldn't get a decent price. We did however do the hour long trip back out to the ford down the track as from the lake the mountain was bathed in sunshine. We parked up and waited for maybe an hour before I boldly declared "sod it the rain isn’t that bad we will walk the 8km to the start of the walk and walk 8km back". Despite the lady’s protest we got cracking.