|Friday 1 July - Wanaka to Fox Glacier
A bit of a drive today over the Haast Pass and on to Fox Glacier so an early start with a few stops planned on the way. Soon after taking off the area showed how cold it was with a large frost everywhere just outside of Wanaka. Luckily there wasn’t any ice on the roads but we were fairly careful anyway. We soon had our first stop at a lookout overlooking Lake Hawea and at 10:00 it was still very foggy over the lake. A bit further along we stopped at Thunder Creek Falls for a short walk to view the waterfall and creek before continuing onto Haast for a cuppa. Refreshed, we then headed up the coastal road and stopped at Arthur Point lookout with a great view of the Tasman Sea and the coastline before coninuing passed Fox Glacier to Franz Josef village to call into the Info Centre and get the low down on the whole area.
This proved to be worthwhile and gave us food for thought about things to do over the next couple of days. We made a couple of other enquiries before heading back to Fox over the very windy 23 kms, checked in and dumped our bags at out motel before heading out to Lake Matheson. We were told that there was a good walk with views around the lake but this proved a bit of a porky with the walk not on the water all apart from one or two little areas so we ditched this idea after we hit the first viewing area and turned back to have a look up the road a bit and had a clear view of Fox Glacier. We headed back to the motel and after a fair bit of thought we decided to book a helicopter flight in the morning visiting Fox Glacier and Mount Cook so it will be interesting to see how this turns out.
A couple of beers and a meal at the local watering hole and a small one nightcap at the motel while doing some chores after a big day on the road was enough to see us off for our first night in the Fox.
Saturday 2 July - Fox Glacier
We headed off around daybreak (9:00!) for brekkie and then across the road for our helicopter flight of Fox Glacier and Mount Cook. On arrival we heard our favourite word again – upgrade! We were booked with one other couple and as they had booked first and wanted to do the longer 40 minute tour we also got to go along – gotta be happy with that and even more so as our accommodation had a deal with the company where we had a discount as well!
After a quick safety briefing we were soon on board the mini bus to the helipad and our pilot had us in the air and away. Neither of us had been in a chopper previously so it was double the fun. We first zoomed our way over the Fox township and then onto Franz Josef Glazier for some close up views from on high. We then choppered past Tasman Glacier around Mout Cook from just about every angle and then our glacier landing on Fox. The day couldn’t have been better with completely clear blue skies, not even a hint of a cloud and very low winds. The landing area was quite large and when we viewed another chopper on the ice it looked a small mossie. All too soon we were back aboard and winging (well sort of) around Fox Glacier and then back to the helipad. This was a fantastic experience and one we would recommend to anyone – absolutely fantastic and with the weather Gods smiling on us it was just perfect.
We then headed off terrestrially to Fox Glacier firstly by car where we parked and took off on foot for an hour round trek to the furtherest point you can go within the safety lines. Given the two lives lost two years ago no one was going beyond these. The walk was fairly pleasant but the view of the glacier was fairly poor. It was still worth the walk and nice to be out and about in great conditions.
Back to Fox HQ for a walk around the half dozen of shops and then a quick bite and look around although this was very brief! Back to the car and a nice drive through the forest to Gillespie’s Beach with a pit stop at a very good Mount Cook and Fox Glacier viewing area. The beach was an interesting place with about two houses, great sand and breakers, heaps of driftwood and a fair supply of sandflies if you stood still – oh and the odd sheep. There was also another area a kilometer or so a bit further on where you could go for a few walks. Not really much to see so we then drove back through the same rainforest, narrow and gravel road for another stop at the view area and then back home to our accommodation for a well-earned (we thought so anyway) relaxing vino in the sun and a night in with our cheese, nibbles and another glass or two!
Sunday 3 July - Fox Glacier
We headed off around daybreak again (this is getting too much) and over the mountainous twists and turns for our day at Franz Josef. This started well at the local watering hole for brekkie and then off the tackle the walk to the glacier which was only about 4kms out of town and over what could only be described as a third world bridge with a considerable span that creaks and groans as you drive over it – although to be fair there is a considerable amount of work going on which will hopefully replace the old girl. The walk itself was stated to be an hour and half return but the actual walk itself only took an hour and we spent about a half hour at the face of the glacier taking photos and taking in the view. The terminus area of Fox and Franz are very different and we preferred Franz as you had a better view of the whole glacier up to the top whereas at Fox the view was somewhat restricted because of boulders and the terrain and the walk at Franz was easier although not as scenic. Verdict – it was worth seeing both as they are different and you experience and see different things at both so it was good to be able to do Fox and Franz whilst here and the weather was fantastic so this helped.
After heading back to town and spending a short time having a look through the town centre itself we headed for the Glacier Hot Pools to have a bit of R and R. The site is just on the fringe of the township and well worth the visit with three separate pools at 36 degrees, 38 degrees and 40 degrees. Optimum was the 38 degree pool with quite a few people unable to dip into the 40 degree pool and was surprising how much difference 2 degrees makes. We think that the hot tub at Wanaka on our second night was about 41 or 42 degrees as it nearly gave us skin burn and we were very red for some time – more lobster looking than usual!
We left Franz behind us and drove back the half hour to Fox and had a few chores to do and packing in readiness for the fairly long drive tomorrow to Murchison. We did however have time to visit Cook’s Saddle Saloon for a refreshing beverage and good meal. One thing they do like to serve at pubs is meat with a couple of fried eggs. Quite different and possibly something from the US but the meals we had here were very good. After partaking at the saloon and feeling at one with the world we headed back to the motel for a nightcap and some Z’s.