January 15, 2016
So it begins, I am going to take this rare opportunity of being in the same place for 10 days and try to write and post as much as I can about the South Island Road Trip. It started in late November and has ran its way from the South to the North where I am (back in) Napier to work a week and a half before continuing onwards. Now, let’s just hop we find some work on Monday.
Alright, I hope everyone is doing well – So, before this part of the trip in New Zealand, I was in Queenstown living for about 6 months. That is where I worked at Coronet Peak at the ski field on the lifts. After about 6 months, I left Queenstown and went to Dunedin, Catlins National Park, Milford Sound and finally back to Queenstown for one night before continuing forward. I posted some pics of this back in November, but this is where I left off so I’ll pick up there. Opposed to posting 250 photos at once of the entire trip, I will cut up the trip into about 7-8 blog posts with photos relevant to each post! I will post them on here because I know people get lazy when it comes to clicking a link J – but I will also post them on my blog – www.ontheloosejuice.com –
Leaving Queenstown from the second time was the final “goodbye.” The first time I left, less than a week prior, I knew it wasn’t the real goodbye because I would have one night left in Queenstown.. I would see my friends, and most importantly, Andy, one more time before I went on. The last night in Queenstown was real nice. Andy and I had a big meal and then went to the Ice Bar (bar made out of ice) for a couple drinks before heading home. The next day, Brittany and I said our goodbyes to everyone and finally hit the road. I’ll never forget the feeling of driving down the road with Queenstown behind me, getting further and further each moment. What the hell was going to happen now? Where will we go? Who will I meet? Well, at that point you are as free as you’re about to ever be. The road is yours. Take out a map. Choose a place. Go.
There are three routes from the bottom to top of the South Island. There is a road on the west, east and center. The route on the East is the less scenic of the three so automatically that was a “Nope.” The central route is nice too, but luckily I saw it already with various weekend trips to Mount Cook, Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo. The West is supposed to be the most epic, filled with landscapes resembling Lord of the Rings or Jurassic Park. Therefore, it was an easy choice to go there.
The first stop after Queenstown was Wanaka, a small town I had seen a couple times up until now. We paid the mandatory visit to “That Wanaka Tree” and headed onward via Haast Pass. This is when the real landscapes started to kick in. I really can’t describe the rugged, jagged faces of mountains towering higher than I can comprehend. Unfortunately, it was cloudy and raining so we couldn’t see the tops of some, as they were too high in the sky. The clouds did make for an eerie mood. It had a real unique vibe with the clouds and the rain. I really did expect a pterodactyl or Froto Baggins to come out at any time.
After we finally got over the pass we made it to the coast! It was nice to finally see the ocean after 6 months in New Zealand. When we got to the coast the rain and wind had really picked up. You couldn’t really do anything outside for too long and the forecast showed no sunshine anytime soon. Therefore, unfortunately, the West Coast was kind of rushed and completed in about two days time. The rain was relentless and wind unbearable. The worst part about the West Coast was the sandflies. I mentioned these before, but they’re the worst thing known to man. I never thought I would meet something I despised more than a mosquito.. and then I met the sandfly! Their bites are brutal. One morning we accidentally left the front of the tent open and by the time we noticed and shut it there were over 300+ sandflies inside the tent? It was raining at this point so we decided to just take down the tent and worry about it later. It was still raining that night so when we put up the wet tent, dead (and some alive) sandflies were still trapped inside. It definitely wasn’t one of the fondest moments but made for a great story because, hell, we’re still alive.
Besides our initial bad luck with weather and sandflies, the West Coast itself was beautiful. The West Coast is home of the largest glaciers in New Zealand. We were able to visit two, the Fox Glacier and Franz Josef! When we arrived at the Fox Glacier, it really started to rain. We wanted to do the walk to the base of the glacier, but decided to continue 45-60 minutes up the coast to the supposedly more impressionable Franz Josef Glacier. We did the “look out” at the Fox Glacier but couldn’t see much. When we got to Franz Josef, the rain stopped temporarily for the first part of our hike to the base. What we saw on this hike was incredible.
In short, these glaciers are melting. They have been melting for decades and they’re diminishing quicker and quicker as time goes on. In the near future, they won’t even exist. It’s sad, but most likely true. At Franz Josef, we parked the car and started the hour and a half round trip to the glacier base. As we walked towards the glacier, I noticed we were walking in a gigantic bowl shaped valley where the glacier used to be before it melted. The valley was covered with rocks deposited by the glacier as it tore its way through the hillside years ago. The rocks increased in size as we made our way to the glacier. After a short hike through this valley, we finally reached the base of the glacier. The glacier is rested in the valley of two mountains. It’s massive. Unfortunately, the rain started again just as we reached it, so most of my photos were mental photos as the ones with my camera came out quite bad. It was a real treat to see such a unique part of the world as this. I am not sure I have ever seen a proper glacier before. Let’s just hope they remain for our future generations to enjoy as well.
The Glaciers and the first part of the West Coast were good, but not properly explored due to the weather – Luckily, as we continued North, the weather began to work in our favor and the sun began to shine. We reached beaches, got sunburns, ran into friends, partied, worked, etc. But that’s for another day and time. This is just the beginning of what was yet to come!