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Franz Josef to Fox Glacier to random beach south of Haast, to Lake Hawea to Wanaka

Technical errors made me lose the beginnings of this post two times in a row. Now I feel so far behind. I’ve seen so much in the past few days of driving. It’s been, well, string together a long list of superlatives that mean something like “double-plus-good” and you might start to capture it in words. The pictures will tell the story better than I can at this moment.

It is Tuesday, March 31st and I am sitting at a coffee shop in Queenstown. Drove here this morning from Wanaka. Tomorrow I start the Milford Track. The weather has been perfect. I was driving through rainforest on the West Coast the past few days and it didn’t rain once. Weird. After a while, those towering mountains of rolling dark green became a little monotonous, I have to say. But it set me up perfectly for the inland drive to the arid land around Lake Hawea. The low-shrub covered brown, pink and black hills were so barren in contrast. The sun was setting, so the vivid yellow light saturated the colors, and magnified the every crevice and bump with long black sideways shadows. It’s so hard to get anywhere on the South Island. I just have to stop and get out of my car every ten minutes. To stare or take a picture. Mostly to get a better full 360 degree view of the landscape without the dirty windshield or metal I am encased in blocking my view. I spent a lot of the driving time with my nose almos on the steering wheel so that I could see the tops of mountains and the tall trees passing over me.

A note on clothing here, because I know my readership is chocker with fashionistas. The past few days I have gotten in the habit of wearing long underwear bottoms under pants, with flip-flops and a t-shirt. Schizophrenic weather calls for schizophrenic outfits. The range of temperature just between shade and sunlight can be so much that I can never quite decide what to wear. This outfit (sort of) guarantees that at least one half of my body will be comfortable in any situation. I’m not winning any beauty pageants over here. Hygiene contests, either. But that’s alright for you, you can’t smell me from the states, can you?

I just went on a little spending spree here. My memory cards are perilously full so I bought another 8GB card. I don’t even know how long that will last me. I still have a month of picture-taking to go! And I also got myself a down sleeping bag rated to 0 degrees Celsius (that’s freezing point, or 32 degrees Fahrenheit, for those of you still using that silly and outdated measurement system).

Since I am going to be broke anyways, I have started considering spending some money on skydiving as well. I probably shouldn’t have mentioned that here, since my Mom is a devoted reader. I’ll let you know if I do it, after I have survived.

Just a note: I will be starting the Milford Track tomorrow, April 1st. It’s a 4-5 day walk, so I will be incommunicado. And hopefully in a state of of-the-grid bliss. The man in the store where I bought the sleeping bag says I have got the best weather for the Track. Lucky lucky me. Since I booked myself on it in January, there was no way to foretell.

The Fox Glacier was awesome as well. And I use that word literally. It was even bigger than the Franz Josef, and the walk in was quite different as well. To the right were towering cliff faces over five hundred feet tall. Along the tops and down about half-way were balls of green, clinging to the sides like moss. The rock face was inciseed with deep vertical lines all along it. Little glacial pools were a hard-to-believe hue of blue, laced with milky whiteness. Reminding me a bit of those red, white and blue rocket shaped icicle pops we used to have at the pool as kids. Minus the red, of course.I really don’t understand what makes the water the colors it is here. Something to look up when I get home, I suppose.

On the drive when the road came back out to the coast again there were tantalizing waves in the bay there. Really long lines of swell coming in at regular intervals. Farther down the beach to my left they seemed to be breaking in nice lines, far enough out from the beach to be rideable. The wind was blowing around in different directions, but predominantly off-shore, holding up the faces. It looked so good. I sat fror a while studying them, and walking down the beach getting a closer look. The only possible problem seemed to be the break right at the beach. Like another shore I have seen before, it sloped steeply down into the waves. So when the swell reached the hill it would rise up menacingly, hollow out and close with a thunderous bang. i thought I might find a place to paddle out, so I suited up, grabbed the board and went down.

I stood on the beach with my board under my arm watching. A big break on the beach not too far from where I stood, sent a whole lot of water shotdun-like at my feet. Picking up all the little pebbles and some distrubingly larger ones and bouncing them across my feet. Ouch. Twenty minutes of walking up and down the beach and I couldn’t find anywhere that I was confident of trying to paddle out from. If I had been with someone else, and gotten a second opinion about it, I might’ve given it a shot. But those waves breaking on the beach looked a tad dangerous. Would behard to drive myself to Te Anau with broken legs. The closer I got to those good-looking waves the more I realized they were probably a bit too big and steep for me anyways and were probably crashing onto a pretty shallow bed of water. Oh well. Disappointed I walked back to the car. For the best, though, I still had some miles to cover and it was already past 3pm.

The drive to Lake Hawea as the sun was setting cheered me up enormously. I will try to get pictures of this whole day up tonight with captions.


  1. Here’s me wishing you a fabulous hike tomorrow 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 :), one for each day. I’ll be anxiously awaiting your next post. And of course the photos. God speed, loving ya Mom

  2. what’s that smell?

    Um, glad you brought it up, I can smell you from here.

    For now, until your feet are back on the ground, I’m going to assume the sky-diving comment is just an early April Fool’s. No really, I’ve always sort of wanted to do it myself, but not sure I’d ever actually go through with it. Hope you do as I suspect New Zealand would be a pretty spectacular place to see that way.

    Love & kisses, Kate.

  3. “Schizophrenic weather calls for schizophrenic outfits.” I took the metro into DC on Wednesday, it was pouring all day, and I couldn’t believe the number of women wearing flip-flops while many people were almost still in their winter clothes. THAT looked a little silly to me. Not for a globetrotter exploring NZ’s gorgeous nature and making friends with dolphins, birds and seals … I LOVE reading your extraordinary detailed and well-written descriptions of what you see and feel! Big hug, lots of love. Danielle

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