Glaciers, Reflections, & Haast Pass!

Trip Start Apr 19, 2012
1
4
12
Trip End May 01, 2012


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Where I stayed
Lake Hawea Holiday Park - http://www.haweaholidaypark.co.nz/

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Monday, April 23, 2012

Day 4: Fox Glacier -> Lake Hawea

My wife and I woke up early to see the sunrise at Lake Matheson. The lake was huge. To walk the entire lake, it will take about 1.5hrs so we only planned to walk to the first viewing point, which took us about 20mins from the cafe and a gift shop. It was quite interesting to walk as we got to experience NZ's rainforest. It was totally different with a tropical rainforest where the trees are normally dense and thick, but in NZ, there were plenty of shrubs, and ferns and the trees are not too close to each other which created a somewhat a very spacious feel. When we reach the deck, we could already see a small crowd there waiting for the sunrise. From the viewing deck it had breathtaking reflection views of both New Zealand’s highest peaks Aoraki (Mt Cook) and Mt Tasman. However, unfortunately, the top of the mountain was shrouded in clouds.

After taking enough photos, it was time for us to head for our rescheduled heli-hike to the top of the glaciers after our parents trip the day before doing the Terminal Face walk. For more information on the availability of activites, you can see the attached photo or you can visit Fox Glaciers I was quite worried because when we arrived to report in, the operators told us that they may have to cancel the trip because weather forecast were not good. We were disappointed, kept our fingers crossed throughout, and thankfully the weather was good at the end, and we were cleared to fly. From the HQ, we were asked to collect our jackets, gloves, water-proof begs before being transported to the heli-pad ground via a van. Once we reached the heli-pad, we were briefed with the do's and dont's and were asked to changed our shoes to leather boots. When everyone was ready, it was time to get on the helicopter. It was an amazing feeling to take the helicopter as it was our first time as our activity combined the excitement of walking on the glaciers with the thrill of a helicopter ride. By flying in, we were able to access and explore part of glaciers that formed beautiful ice caves. The view from the helicopter is breathtaking from the lower icefall until the upper icefall and we were circling the Victoria Falls before landing. Once landed, our guide, introduced himself as 'Tex' (because he was from Texas, USA), prepared us to outfit our boots with crampons, some sort of spikes meant for walking on the ice. Once everyone in our group was ready
he cut the ice to create ice steps that will help us walk better. We were told my the guide that Fox's glacier were West Coast’s longest and also less crowded glacier compared to the Franz Josef's. Also, the glacier in Franz Josef were getting shorter and lesser because it moved faster compare to Fox's because of the terrain. In Franz Josef's the slope at the mountain was straight down, nothing to slow the speed of the moving glaciers. Whereas in Fox's terrain, it was not a straight down slope as the slope was a curve. So the curve slows down the speed of the moving glaciers. Besides the good weather, we were very lucky to experience the ice cave as well. This is because the glaciers were natural and ever changing environment therefore the ice features changed constantly and not all the time we could see an ice cave. The experience to be on the glaciers, walking and exploring, are surreal and words can't really describe the feelings that we went through. The blue-ish ice was just so magnificient. We spent almost 3hrs at the glaciers. The helicopter ride down was also something special because we got to see different angles of what we have seen before. Once we were back to the town, we spent a little bit more time around walking about (actually waiting for our parents as they were at Lake Matheson), and actually saw very pretty scenery. It was very peaceful and serene. Beautiful cottage, colorful trees (due to autumn), wild-life and everything is just so therapeutic. Felt like the time has stop running. Instantly, it had become my favorite town of all NZ towns I have visited during this entire trip.

We then continued our journey south-bound towards Wanaka town which was our next destination. The journey along Highway-6 also known as Haast Pass, a mountain pass in Southern Alps, was one of the most amazing scenic drives with amazing views. This is a trip worth doing and one where you want to be in your on car, so you can stop continuously and look at the views unless of course you are the driver!  The first breathtaking scene was driving pass Bruce Bay, where we drove alongside the beachline at the highway after coming from the mountainous terrain. The sudden change of terrain, where we suddenly see the sea, really caught us unaware and we were awe by it! We did not stop but I managed to capture it with my camera before the highway turn inroad again. There were not many places where we could stop along the highway as it was mostly mountainous road and above sea level, but yet we still managed, as we stopped for Thunder Creek Falls to view the spectacular falls (28 metres high from the information board).  It was a short walk through a beautiful rainforest - five minutes return. Took some photos before we continued our journey. We also drove pass the magnificent Gates of Haast, which is a bridge over a blue-ish gorge with enormous boulders and stopped for photo-taking session.

We travelled about 250km, almost 4 hours, before we decided to put a night at the nearest holiday park because the sky was getting dark fast. The nearest we could find was Lake Hawea, and I decided that we should stop there and not Wanaka town, which was another 20km further, because we could also check out the lake the next morning during the sunrise. It was one of the best decisions ever made during this road trip, because it was a stunning lake with stunning Southern Alps views. It was something extra as it was not in our original itinerary. The park was very homely, quiet surroundings with huge trees, most spacious campsites we have ever encountered, and was manned by one of the friendliest chap we had ever met during our road trip. His name was Mike and he just couldn't stop cracking jokes. Very hospitable and funny.

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