A week or two ago I made the decision to leave Queenstown and continue my travels through New Zealand. I really liked living there and will certainly miss my friends, but I sort of felt like I was in a bubble. It’s the kind of place that sucks people in. Travelers from everywhere come and some just never leave. It’s beautiful. There’s lots to do. It’s a small town, but has most things you would find in a bigger city. It’s just plain awesome. It’s easy to see why so many foreigners move there and settle down. In fact there are more expatriates living there than Kiwis. For me–I’m not ready to settle just yet. There’s still so much to see and explore in this beautiful country! So after a month and a half, I left Queenstown and got a ride up the west coast to the tiny little town of Franz Josef (aka glacier country). I’ve already been here for a few days now and did an awesome heli hike on the Franz Josef Glacier this morning (which I’ll save for another post).
Most people seem to come for the day, see the glaciers, maybe spend a night and move on, but in the 5 days I’ve been here I’ve learned there are a few things to do besides seeing the glaciers. There are quite a few trails in the area, cutting through the thickest and lushest rainforest I’ve ever seen. Seriously, it’s like Jurrasic Park or Pandora (from Avatar) here.
One rainy day I went for a walk in the hills behind town to this place called the Tatare Tunnels, which was dug out of the mountainside back in the day to channel water into town (some gold was also recovered during the dig). There’s a stream flowing through the tunnel floor, so I had to forgo my socks and shoes and went in hobbit style. I’m not sure exactly how long the main tunnel was, but it took about 10 minutes or so to walk through. There were glowworms live in the cave, which was a nice surprise. I had seen thousands of them high on the cave walls while blackwater rafting in Waitomo, but this was the first time I got a chance to see them up close.
On another day a friend I had met at my hostel (who was a fellow Washingtonian of all places!) hitched a ride out to Fox Glacier township, about 23 km (13 miles) south of Franz Josef. We walked out of town to Lake Matheson, which is famous for having a perfect mirror reflection of Mount Cook on a still clear day. It was sunny and clear when we left town, but by the time we got to the lake the marine layer had moved in. Still a nice walk though. 🙂
Afterwards we headed off to see the Fox Glacier itself (where the sun was still shining!) I didn’t realize it initially, but it was actually kind of far out of town. We got lucky when a mailman drove by and offered us a lift all the way to the trail head. The walk to the glacier was nice–not very long, but fairly scenic. Unlike the Franz Josef Glacier (which has receded so much that it’s only accessible by helicopter), the terminus of the Fox Glacier descends all the way to the valley floor. This means you can still get pretty close to the ice on your own, which is convenient if you are short on time and can’t take a guided walk onto the ice.
So that’s what I’ve been up to for the past few days! I’ll be posting photos from my heli hike trip to the Franz Josef Glacier sometime later this week!