The Glacier

Trip Start Mar 08, 2011
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Trip End Jun 11, 2011


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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!  Just another day in paradise for us.  The plan was to wake up at 7am in order to get ready to go on the glacier walk of Franz Joseph. However, either I did not set the alarm correctly, or we all slept through it (since it was under a pile of clothes behind the noisy space heater) and ended up waking up at 9.  That means we missed the guided walk onto the glacier (you can only go on the glacier with a guide).  This wasn't the end of the world for Amy and I as we have been on glaciers in Iceland and Alaska, but Adam was looking forward to the opportunity.  As a consolation, we drove to Franz Joseph and walked the trail to the glacier.  The beginning of the hike is through the rain forest, which was interesting because I don’t know many rain forests that lead to a glacier.  About 10 minutes into the hike, it opens up to a dried up river bed that used to be filled with the glacier.  Due to global warming (or whatever else the scientists want to blame it on), the glacier has been shrinking.  We then hiked the next 30 minutes to get to the base of the glacier.  Although it is much smaller than it used to be, Franz Joseph is still spectacular. 

In almost all of the souvenir shops in the South Island, there are posters with the big landmarks.  All of these shops contain the same posters (Franz Joseph, Fox Glacier, Milford Sound, Lake Tekapo).  For me, the best of the bunch is the poster of Lake Matheson.  Lake Matheson is a lake that is almost black, but because of it’s color there is a reflection of the surroundings.  The poster of Lake Matheson shows the biggest mountain in New Zealand, Mt. Cook, reflected in the lake.  Me, being the amateur photographer that I strive to be, desperately wanted to get this photo.  So we made the thirty minute drive from Franz Joseph, to the Fox Glacier area (which we skipped because how many glaciers do we really need to see each day) and went right to Lake Matheson.  Having slept in and not wanting to drive too far in the dark, we were on a time crunch.  The hike to the lookout to take the picture was a 90 minute hike.  Worse yet, there were clouds completely covering anything resembling a mountain.  So instead we went inside to the nearby shop (conveniently named Reflectionz).  This made Amy happy as Reflectionz had just the cutest items.  But somewhere around the thirtieth minute of shopping, I peeked outside toward the mountains and saw the clouds slightly drifting away.  So we gathered up the group and ran to the lookout point.  Much to my dismay, the clouds never left, but I did take some pictures to remind me of what could have been. 

Now time for lunch, we were reunited with Britzy so that we could have some sandwiches and chips by the picnic tables.  I love going to different parts of the world to see what the popular flavors of chips are.  Of course Asia had extremely unique flavors for Pringles, but Australia and NZ were more familiar.  I have come to enjoy Grain Waves, which are similar to our Sun Chips.  My favorite flavor was sweet chili, but they are harder to find, so I typically would have to go with salsa or cheddar cheese flavor.  We also got a bag of bbq Doritos which were different.  Amy has really enjoyed her Tim Tams which are a giant and more chocolately version of Kit Kats.  Having more than one is usually too rich for me.  There is something called a Tim Tam slam where you bite off both ends of the tim tam and then use it as a straw to drink your hot cocoa or coffee.  The chocolate and wafer inside melt as you are drinking to make one globby goodness. We haven't tried one yet but plan to. 

After lunch we continued to drive south in order to eventually each Queenstown, but that was too far to make today.  We hoped we would be able to get to Wanaka, which is a lakeside town popular in the summer, often called a mini-Queenstown.  Another great feature of NZ is when driving, there are tons of interesting sights to see along the way.  Along our drive we made a stop at Knights Point which is a lookout on the cliffs of the western edge of NZ.  From here you can see a few rocks in the distance, but past that there is nothing until you get to Antarctica.  We made another stop because there was a huge waterfall just 2 minutes by foot from the highway.  Waterfalls like this are quite common in NZ, it almost feels like the entire South Island is one long Hana Highway in Maui.  Finally, we stopped at dusk to take a picture of Lake Wanaka and the mountains surrounding it.  No matter how long you drive, the scenery gets more amazing around each bend.  It really feels like you are in a movie (or middle earth). 

The sun had just set and we finally made it to Wanaka.  Jill, the lady from our tourism radio, raved about a campsite in Wanaka, so we went to check it out hoping it would be as nice as the site in Franz Joseph.  Besides a campsite, there were motel rooms as well for just a few dollars more.  Knowing Amy would much rather stay in a real bed, we decided to check out the motel room, but after seeing how clean they were (or lack thereof), we decided to go for another night in the campervan.  The good news was this campsite had the first free internet we have seen since Asia, and I was able to check my email for the first time in NZ.  I was officially back on the grid.  Once we "checked in" to our campsite, we went back into town in order to get some dinner.  Being the winter in a summer resort town, there were not many places open, but we did find a restaurant called the Ale House.  They had a solid selection of beers on tap and I decided to have a pot of mussels in order to make me feel like I was back in Philly at Monk’s Tavern.  Amy went with a grilled lamb salad (NZ is known for their lamb) and Adam ordered the rabbit hot pot which looked fantastic as well. 

Following dinner we stopped in a wine shop to pick up a few bottles of wine to enjoy in the evenings.  We then made our way to the movie theater to see what was playing.  Our friends Debbie and Mike from The Rock Tour in Australia recommended this movie theater because each seat is unique.  Some seats are airline planes.  Others are sofas.  There is even part of a car in the theater that you could sit at to watch the movie.  But since it is a small theater, they only play one movie at a time, with a rotation depending on the day.  Any other day of the week we would have been there for either Pirates of the Caribbean or The Hangover 2.  Instead they were playing some movie called Paul, but as a group we decided it wasn’t worth the price of admission to see this movie.  We drove our hotel room back to the campsite to take advantage of our free internet, the wine we bought, and hope to get enough sleep to actually wake up on time tomorrow.
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