Glacier Country

As Miriam mentioned in her earlier post, we recently returned from a trip where we hiked the Copland track and then spent a day exploring Fox Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier and the surrounding area. This area, on the west coast of the South Island, is referred to as Glacier Country and it rains there constantly (this is what the english teachers of the world refer to as “foreshadowing”).

We started by checking out Fox Glacier, also known as Te Moeka o Tuawe.

DSC_0881On the drive up to the start of the glacier walk there were signs saying “In [year] the glacier was here.” Then you would drive another quarter mile and there would be another one saying that the glacier was at this point in a certain year. This was a pretty cool effect because it helped you visualize just how much the glacier has receded. Not quite as much as Pete Campbell’s hairline, but pretty close.

How are they able to know where the glacier was in 1835, you ask? Well I’m no fancypants scientist but I assume that the glacier carved “Fox Glacier wuz here ’35” into trees as it passed them. Which means its really pissed off that someone went back and changed “here” to “a loser.”

DSC_0907This was as close as you are allowed to get to the glacier without a guide. The glacier is 13 km long and falls 2600 meters. The rest of it can only be viewed by helicopter. If I went back I would definitely pay the extra money to do a guided half-day or full-day hike on it.

DSC_0904This is the view from the glacier facing back towards where we parked our car. On the hike to and from the glacier we walked through a valley where the glacier used to be. In the picture above you can see this rocky valley surrounded by green, lush mountains and waterfalls on either side.


Next we went for  a short hike through a really cool forest where moss covered everything.


Close-up shot of a plant. Doesn’t get more exciting than that, folks.


Next we did a walk around Lake Matheson which is a very picturesque, reflective lake that was created by Fox Glacier.


On a clear day at Lake Matheson you can see the reflection of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman. Unfortunately for us it was not a clear day so we didn’t get to see Lake Matheson in all its glory.


Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman are in the background here but unfortunately you can’t see the tops of them.


In this photo the barbed wire represents restrictiveness while the mountains behind it symbolize the… Ah, screw it.

On the next day we woke up to pouring rain. We were planning on taking our time on leaving from our hostel but we were reminded by the desk clerk that on the way home we drive through Haast Pass where the road will close if there is bad weather and the road closes every night at 6 anyway. Since there isn’t a very developed highway system on the South Island, if we didn’t make it through Haast Pass, we were going to have to spend the night somewhere and not get back to Queenstown until the next day because there is no other road. When we got to Haast, sure enough, the road was closed.  So we had to kill time hanging out in one of the 2 restaurants in the town of Haast. I’m pretty sure they just close the road so that these restaurants and the inn get some business.

Luckily they re-opened the road after we waited for about an hour and a half. We were one of the first cars they let through. The waterfalls on the drive home were pretty spectacular. Some were right next to the road!




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