Queenstown/Fox Glacier

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

We thought we’d start this bog with a list of things we’ve learned in New Zealand:

  • If a Kiwi tells you how long it will take to get from Point A to B, add 50% to it and you’ll be about right.
  • If a Kiwi gives you verbal directions to a place and says “you can’t miss it,” ask for a map, because you can miss it, as we did more than once.
  • Australians are fined if they don’t vote in an election and this results in about a 90% turnout.
  • They sell unusual potato chips here - lamb and mint or chicken flavored.  We tried the chicken but couldn’t bring ourselves to try the lamb and mint.
  • Tide pens are worth their weight in gold.

Regarding the last one, doing laundry while traveling is really a hassle, but something you have to do when you’re gone a long time.  In Te Anau we saw a business called “Wash and Surf” where you can go online as you’re doing laundry.  It wasn’t quite time for us to do laundry, but it sounded like a good idea.  If they had a laundry/casino we’d be set as we could get our clothes cleaned and get taken to the cleaners at the same time.  We drove from Te Anau to Queenstown on Saturday, February 24th.  It was a short drive, only 2 hours and the weather was great, with a high of about 72.  Queenstown is really the spot for activities.  We took the gondola up the mountain and saw many hang gliders and also watched people driving luge sleds down the mountain.  It’s very crowded with tourists in this small town that has a population of only 11,000 and there are more young tourists here--probably because of all the city and nearby area have to offer in jet boats, bungy jumping, etc.  For Sunday, February 25th, we booked a jetboat trip up the glacier-fed Dart River (see video below).  We drove along Lake Wakatipu from Queenstown to Glenorchy, where we boarded a jetboat with a top speed of about 53 mph.  There were 18 of us, plus our driver Ashley, a young guy.  It took us about 2 hours to get to the border of the Mount Aspiring National Park 26 miles away, and we climbed about 450 feet as we went upstream.  We stopped quite a few times so Ashley could tell us about the area.  We had some rain, but it didn’t really matter because we were getting wet anyway even though we were wearing rain gear with hoods.  Still, getting hit in the face with rain when you’re going 50+ mph does sting.  We also got wet about a half dozen times when Ashley did a high speed spin.  Jay was sitting along the side of the boat in the back, and although his wallet was in his back pocket, everything in it was wet, along with the rest of him.  Ashley also zigzagged the boat so that we came so close to the boulders and sandbars in the river that we thought we would hit them.  We got out of the jetboat and went for a nature walk on the way back and saw a beautiful mountain stream, with good trout and salmon fishing, that empties into the Dart River.  We had an extra treat when a camper ran out of the woods and went into the river for a quick bath.  He did have boots and boxers on, but our driver said the water temperature was only about 38 degrees.  The jetboat experience was very exhilarating and the scenery beautiful despite the clouds and rain.  When we got back to Queenstown about 5:00 it was warm and sunny.

Video

Dart River Jetboat

Monday, February 26th, was a beautiful day for a drive through the Southern Alps from Queenstown to Fox Glacier.  We had expected the drive to take over 7 hours, but instead drove the 231 miles in about 5 hours.  Hwy.  6 was great as it was wide and pretty straight.  We saw beautiful lakes and waterfalls in addition to mountains on the way.  We went through the lowest of the three passes through the Alps, the Haast pass, which is only a little over 1,800 feet high.  Once we got to the town of Haast and headed north up the west coast of the island, we were in the rain forest.  We had a beautiful view of the Tasman Sea at Knights Point.  We went to view the Fox Glacier after checking in at the Mountain View B & B.  We had hoped to see Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, but it was cloudy here and the mountains never came into view.  Our host at the B & B recommended the Plateau Restaurant in this little town, where we enjoyed steaks and another bottle of great New Zealand wine.  The clouds were still around on Tuesday, February 27th and it was misting in the morning when we drove north to Franz Josef Glacier to check on a flight we had booked to see the mountains.  It didn’t look promising, but we were able to go as the clouds were very low and the peaks were sunny.  It was just incredible, as a few minutes into the flight we had views of the Tasman Sea, then we were over the rain forest, and within ten minutes of takeoff we were seeing snow-capped mountains.  Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in New Zealand at over 12,300 feet is in the Mount Cook National Park.  Mount Tasman, which is right next to Mount Cook, is the second highest at almost 11,500 feet and is in the Westland National Park.  There are over 150 peaks higher than 7,500 feet in this area and over 120 glaciers on Mount Cook and Mount Tasman alone.  The flight, in a seven passenger plane, lasted 55 minutes and our maximum altitude was 11,000 feet.  We had great views of the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers as well as dozens of others (click here for a short video).  Our pictures don’t do justice to the amazing scenery.  We’re very glad we did the flight, as it doesn’t look like there will be an opportunity to see these mountains from the ground.  After our flight we viewed the Franz Josef Glacier, which is moving forward about 40 inches a day.

Mountain Flight

We had been told when we checked into our B & B that if the mountains weren’t covered with clouds, a good place to see them and their reflections was to walk around Lake Matheson,which is only a short drive from the B & B.  We got up early on Wednesday, the 28th, and did the walk in 1 hour and 20 minutes.  The lake was very still and the views were beautiful.  We also took some great photos of the view from our B & B.  We can see Mounts Cook and Tasman from our window as we are packing.

The Beach Street Wharf in Queenstown

Hang gliders from gondola ride

View from top of gondola ride

Going down in gondola

A roadside stop on the way to Glenorchy

Another Dart Safari Boat

Ashley - our jetboat driver & guide

A camper bathing (38 degree water)

Mountain stream that flows into the Dart river

Just off Hwy. 6 onto 89 toward Wanaka

Lake Hawea

Along Hwy. 6

Tasman Sea from lookout at Knights Point

A long one-way bridge

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier from Glacier View Road

Tasman Sea from airplane

Above the clouds

Southern Alps

One of many glaciers

Mount Tasman and Mount Cook

Mount Cook

Southern Alps

Great flight!

Franz Josef Glacier from Sentinel Rock Walk

Franz Josef Glacier reflected in Peter's Pool

Mountains from Lake Matheson

Mountains from B & B

© Jay Deitch 2020