June 28 - Fox Glacier
New Zealand - There and Back Again
I had a good night of sleep. There was only a sheet and a comforter, but it was really warm. We got up this morning at 7 AM. It was still dark outside. I only had to pack up a few things and then we went to have breakfast. We were in a hurry, but decided to have eggs with cheese on the top. They had a cheese grater so we used that. We each had a piece of butter and jelly toast and a cup of hot chocolate.
We returned our key through a little slot at the reception window. We left at 8 AM, a little after when we had wanted to go. The drive to Fox Glacier was supposed to take about two hours. We had read about a little town called Jackson Bay, about 30 minutes south of Haast on the coast. It was the last town on the road.
Since the weather was clear we thought it would be a good place to go. There was supposed to be unforgettable views of the Southern Alps and the possibility of seeing a special kind of penguin that is only found in this part of New Zealand, the Fjordland Crested Penguins. They have weird feathers on their head.
We got stuck behind a slow truck for a little while, but were eventually able to speed past them. We got to Jackson Bay around 8:45 AM. The roads were a little icy in parts and the road turned a lot at the end which made us go slower. I wanted to be back in Haast by 10 AM, so that meant we needed to leave around 9:30 AM at the latest.
The town itself wasn’t much. There were only a few buildings near the harbor. There were about 10 boats on the water, but it looked like people were only on a couple of them. We took a few pictures and then walked down to the beach. There were a few hikes in the area, but we didn’t want to do them because of time. We basically just wanted to look for penguins and see the views of the Alps.
The beach was very rocky and the tide was out so we walked out a little ways onto the rocks. I wanted to walk along the beach around the corner of the cliff to see if it would give a different view of the ocean and the sun rising. It was much farther than it looked because I never made it to the end.
For some reason the sun was rising over the water, which made no sense to me. I thought it would be rising in the mountains since that’s where I thought the northeast was. I looked on a map later and realized that New Zealand is actually in a diagonal position almost horizontal, not vertical like I always thought. Therefore, the sun rising over the water made sense after all.
We wondered around on the rocks for about an hour taking pictures. The Southern Alps did provide great views like we had read. With the boats in the foreground it was even better. A few of the boats were moving around as guys were doing some kind of work. Other than that nothing was going on in the area. We were the only ones out walking around.
The longer we were out there the more the tide started coming in. I was in the process of trying to take pictures of myself and jumping from rock to rock when I noticed that the rocks I was jumping across were no longer visible. The water came rushing over them. I could tell that if I didn’t start moving quick I would have no escape route.
I moved back a little bit closer to the shore and within seconds all the rocks I had been jumping on were under water. It was neat to see how fast the tide was able to rise. We started heading back to the car. We had previously crossed a small stream of water that was running from the forest to the sea. I didn’t know if that same stream of water would still be as small as it was or if we’d need to find another way.
The stream of water had grown, but it was still only a few inches deep and enough rocks were sticking up to cross. We got back to the car and took a few more pictures of the harbor and then headed back towards Haast, hoping to see some penguins.
We pulled off on a side road that was called Neil’s Beach Rd. We thought that may lead to the beach so we turned. After about half a mile the road turned to gravel. A sign warned that the road was unpaved and to travel at your own risk. Just a few hundred meters further and there was a huge puddle of water covering the road. The road was sandy and there was no way through. We turned down a side road and thought maybe we’d get down to the water that way. It didn’t happen. The road was a dead end to an old factory building of some kind that didn’t seem to be used anymore.
We had to turn back and just continue down the road. We didn’t stop anymore and saw no penguins. We tried to see them from the car to the shores below, but we had no luck. We got back to Haast around 10:30 AM, a little behind schedule again.
I wanted to get to Fox Glacier around 12:30 PM since we had a few hikes we wanted to do. It was only 120 kilometers so I figured at 100 kilometers an hour driving we could make it. Along the way we stopped at a few pull offs to take pictures. It was just views off a cliff of the sea below called Peter’s Point. It only took a few minutes and then we started driving again.
There were a lot of palm trees on the drive since we were near the coast. I thought the road would be flat, but just half a mile inland there were a lot of hills and mountains. There was even snow on the ground. Parts of the road went down into valleys, but than others climbed into the mountains. It was a very scenic drive.
We made it to Fox Glacier just before 12:30 PM. We ended up being on schedule for once. We wanted to do the Glacier Valley Walk which was a 1 ½ hour round trip hike. We figured that would take us a few hours to do. When we approached the town we stopped one more time to take pictures of a one lane suspension bridge just before we crossed it.
We turned down a gravel road towards what we thought would be the start of the Glacier Valley Walk. It was very narrow so it looked like it was one way. We stopped at a viewpoint along the way. It was lunch time and we were starving so before the hike we made sandwiches. We had bought pastrami so we made that for lunch with spinach on top. We also ate some chips and a cookie.
We were ready to start hiking. Nobody else was around at the time. We went to look at the trail sign and the names were different. We weren’t in the right spot. We looked on the map and we had turned down the wrong road. The road we wanted was just down the main road a few hundred meters.
Rather than drive back we decided to do a short walk through the forest that provided views of the glacier. It was called the River Walk. It was only a 15 minute hike so we thought it would be worth checking out. There were other hikes that started at this point, but they were much longer. One went to a historic bridge and the other to a mountain chalet.
The hike was pretty short and easy. It was well marked through the forest along a river. The trail had a few downhill parts just before the end, but other than that it was flat. We stopped a few times to take pictures along the trail and stayed at the lookout for about 15 minutes. A few other people passed through and took a picture or two and left.
There was a little path that led down to the river next to the trail that I walked down. It didn’t go all the way to the river’s edge, but it was cool. There were little waterfalls coming down off the rocks and five feet beneath mossy log that acted like a bridge connecting both sides of the river. I wanted to try to walk across it, but Andy said it was too dangerous.
We got back on the trail and back to the car. It was about 2 PM and we were ready to drive to the Glacier Valley Walk. We could see cars driving down near the glacier from the lookout on the trail, and I thought that might be where we would be driving to next.
The drive was really short. It took about 15 minutes to get to the trailhead. There weren’t a lot of cars there, but there were more than most trails we had gone on. I think there were three cars. There were a lot more people though because of tours that were taking place. The people came on buses and were dropped off. The tours go onto the glacier itself. We would be doing one of these all day tomorrow.
Across from the parking lot was a river flowing from the glacier. On one side of the river was the parking lot and trail, and on the other was a huge cliff hundreds of meters high. There were trees and mossy plants growing out of it’s side.
The start of the trail crosses a short footbridge over a tiny pond of water. The water provided a pretty good reflection of the mountains behind the glacier. The rest of the trail was covered in gravel. It was basically a straight line and flat for most of the walk. There were a few moderate switchbacks near the middle of the trail. After the short climb the trail flattens out again, but it became more sandy and less rocky.
There are a few small streams that must be crossed by stepping on a few rocks, but nothing too difficult. On the hills to the left there were a few waterfalls pouring down. One of them was a little bigger than the others. The best one was very rocky and was a serious of very small falls. This is also the spot where we had to step across a few rocks to pass.
We walked pretty quickly down the trail. A tour group had just started after we began walking. They stopped a few times to talk, and they were able to slowly catch up and pass us. They branched off onto a different trail that could only be used with a guide as we walked towards the base of the glacier.
We were able to get about 200 meters from the front. The distance is always changing based on the weather conditions and other factors. We stayed at the lookout for about 45 minutes to an hour taking pictures. While we were there a Chinese guy came running up to where we were. He was looking up at the tour group waving to them. The guide and all the group had stopped and was pointing for him to go back to go up the trail.
He had no clue what they were saying since they were about 100 meters above us. We had to tell him where to go to get up to where they were. A few minutes later we saw him running up the steep trail to join them. He then ran back down the trail. The group was still waiting.
A few minutes later he appeared again with three other Chinese people, an old guy and old lady. The group began to walk ahead as the Chinese people were struggling to get up the hill. It was pretty funny to watch. I’m not sure why they were behind, but my guess is they were supposed to be on the tour and arrived late and needed to catch up.
At the lookout where we were standing another Asian guy with a guide showed up. There were also two other guys, one that sat down to smoke, and another one just standing around. I’m not sure if they were all together or not, but none of them seemed to be taking pictures of the glacier or going anywhere. The guide that came with them climbed under the ropes and ran off up the side of the hill where the other group tour had been standing waiting on the Chinese family.
The Asian guy was on some kind of tour, I think he may have been trying to catch up with the other group and the guide went to go see if he still could. He was kind of fat so I don’t think he was going to be running after them very quickly. We had been there for about an hour so we were ready to head back down. We never saw what happened with the Asian guy waiting around.
As we walked back we had a few places picked out that we wanted to stop. The stream crossing was the main point of interest. Before when we crossed a tour group was passing by and we didn’t want to go off the trail or do gopro videos with them nearby. We didn’t want to look too stupid.
The stream crossing was pretty cool. Andy tried to do a new trick. I walked across the rocks one way, and then back the other. He took pictures really quickly one after another. Scrolled quickly it looked like I was just walking normally. I did the same thing for Andy when he crossed. There were a number of small waterfalls a few inches tall rushing over the rocks in the stream as it came down the mountain.
I picked out a good waterfall and set up my camera. My plan was to do a long exposure picture. It would blur the water, but everything would be clear and in focus. Andy did the same, but lower down. He ended up seeing the waterfall I had chosen and then joined me.
The pictures I took turned out really well. Since Andy had a tripod he was able to get a few different angles. I have to just rest my camera on my bag so I was limited on where I could stand. While he was continuing to get pictures I walked back to the other side of the stream and up a little path. There weren’t good long exposure pictures to get, but I was able to get a few good pictures of more of the stream.
We didn’t film anything else on the way back from this point. It was around 4:15 and we still had one more hike planned to do. We wanted to drive to Lake Matheson and do a short hike before sunset. The hike provides a reflection of the mountains where Fox Glacier is located.
The drive over was back down to the main road, and then through town, and another 10 minutes down a back road. We got there a little after 4:30 PM. There was a café there, but it had just closed. There were a few cars in the parking lot when we arrived, but a few of the people were just leaving.
The trail starts behind the café. The lake isn’t very big and it’s located in a big field. Not really what I was expecting. I thought it would be at the base of some mountains. There are two ways to go since the trail is a loop. To get to the start we had to walk next to a pasture for a few hundred yards that provided views of the mountains to our right. As we walked into the forest we passed a few groups that were finishing the hike.
We chose to go left at the fork since there were more lookouts on that side. We were just looking for the best view before sunset. The trail starts out really flat and then slowly starts to climb in a few spots. Andy wanted to run so we could get further faster. The whole trail was supposed to take about an hour to complete and we didn’t have that much time. We had about 30 minutes at most.
We got to the first lookout after about 10 minutes. It was just a bench looking out to the water. They were good views though. We came to the next one, the Jetty Lookout, after about 5 minutes of running. This one had a wooden platform with stairs that led down to it. The views from here were pretty good as well and the light was still good.
We got a few pictures and took off for the next point. The trail was still mostly flat, but included a few wooden boardwalks. One was next to the rocky wall to our right, and the other crossed the end of the lake. It wasn’t really crossing the lake, but more of a bog area that was covered with very shallow water and plants. This particular portion was icy.
As I was walking across I could hear people behind me. It was a guy and a girl and they were running. I think they were trying to get to the views quickly too. The next stop just past the boardwalk was another lookout. This one was up a flight of wooden stairs mixed with rock stairs. We ran up it and it was pretty tough after all the other running we had done.
This particular point was called the “View of Views.” Real original. Sounds like something I would make up. I figured it would be really good, and it was, but not great. It was a higher viewpoint and the reflection wasn’t as good. It did allow the opportunity to see Lake Matheson with the mountains in the back, but we were now looking for a spot to do a time lapse with the mountains and their reflection on the lake.
We took a few pictures and the other couple showed up. They got their pictures and took off back down the trail. We soon followed. At the bottom of the stairs was a sign that listed the walking times based on where you could go for a few of the stops. The route we took said it was 40 minutes from where we were standing. We made it in 20 minutes with lots of picture stops. It was about 5:05 PM as we began to run to our next lookout, Reflection Island.
The sign said it would take 5 minutes, running we figured we would get there in less than 2 minutes. The mountains were turning pink at the top from the sunset, so we needed to hurry. I was thinking there would be an island, but there wasn’t. The island must have been the point we were standing on.
The trail was a boardwalk again that led to a flight of stairs that went down to the water. It was basically a dock. The Jetty Point didn’t even have a spot for a boat, whereas Reflection Island did. I think they got the names mixed up on their signs. The other pair was their as we arrived. The girl was taking pictures of the guy in front of the lake.
We walked down the stairs and began setting up our cameras for the time lapse. I put down my gopro almost immediately, it was about 5:08 PM when I started it. I had to get my controller out to start my time lapse and fix the batteries. The thing doesn’t have an on/off switch so to keep from running down the batteries I have to put one in backwards. I had to flip that around and choose the proper settings. By the time I did that it was 5:12 PM.
Andy had to do the same, but also change a battery and memory card. He finally got his going at 5:17 PM. He had missed most of the clouds moving and the colors changing. Mine started out really well, but I probably started the settings too dark. I had it taking pictures every 8 seconds, the gopro was taking them every 5 seconds.
As we were sitting there letting the pictures run we could hear loud gun shots and see and hear birds flying through the air. I was surprised that there was hunting going on so close to a National Park and tourist destination.
I watched my time lapse from my good camera after I stopped it at 5:30. It was a little dark by the end, but it was still pretty good. The clouds and water moved really well. I haven’t seen the gopro version yet, but the others I had seen that it did looked good so I’ll assume this one will be too.
Andy started his late, but he had the proper settings. His was pretty good too from what I could see. I was up the stairs on the platform watching from above as he scrolled through so I couldn’t see it really well.
It was now getting pretty dark and we still had half the trail to walk. The sign said it would be about 30 minutes from this point back to the start. I walked fast hoping to be back in 20 minutes. It was getting dark and colder.
We had to get our headlamps out for the whole way back. Mine worked well, but Andy’s batteries were dying. His was pretty useless. It was hard to tell if his was even on. Eventually he just turned it off completely. It wasn’t totally dark for the first 5 minutes, so I kept telling him that’s probably why he couldn’t see if his was working or not.
As we went deeper into the forest and the sun went down behind the mountains it was much darker. We had to rely mostly on my light to navigate. This side of the trail was flatter than the other, but it included a lot more wooden planks and footbridges to cross. It was maybe more scenic in the forest, but there were very limited views of the lake.
We made it back to the fork in the trail around 6:00 PM. It was completely dark by now. We could still hear gunshots. I was wondering what they were shooting and how they could see it in the dark. After a few more minutes of hiking I saw something about 20 yards ahead. I shined my light on it and it was two orange eyes staring at me from the side of the trail.
It wasn’t a cat or a dog, their eyes don’t look like that. I couldn’t really see what it was since it was against a tree. I was trying to tell Andy to look at it, but he couldn’t see it at first. After about a minute he finally saw what I was looking at. He thought it was a possum.
The animal just kept staring at us. I figured it would run away. We barked at it a little and made noises, but it didn’t go anywhere. It just walked back and forth on the trail looking for something, and looking at us. I thought we were going to have to throw things at it or go a different way to get back.
It walked off the trail for a second and I thought we could make a break for it, but it quickly came back. I think we sat there for more than 10 minutes waiting for it to leave. Finally it walked off the trail and we walked really quickly to get by. I never looked back. I was thinking it was a wombat, it seemed too bushy to be a possum.
Maybe their possums are different than what I’m used to seeing. Possum fur is very expensive and popular in New Zealand, so maybe they are more bushy. It’s funny that an animal that is abundant and dead all over the roads could be worth so much. In the U.S. I don’t know of anyone wanting to wear a possum as a garment.
We got back to the car around 6:30 PM and still had no place to stay for the night. We had passed a few places and had seen a place in the Lonely Planet that sounded good. We chose to go to the Ivory Towers, a hostel that had camping back in town.
On the way we drove passed a Holiday Park Campground and had it as our back up plan just in case. We found the hostel pretty easily. A large bus had just showed up before us and dropped off a couple of people. We parked on the side of the road and I ran up some stairs to the reception building. The place seemed pretty popular since there were lots of people inside the kitchen area and the reception.
When I got inside there was a guy and two girls in front of me. The guy was getting an in depth description of everything to do in Fox Glacier. He didn’t know anything about the area it seemed based on the questions he asked and the things the lady suggested to him. It took at least 10 minutes. I just wanted to know how much camping or a room was for the night. He needed to hurry up.
Finally he got all the information he wanted and left. One of the girls had gone to sit down in a chair outside and the other one stepped up to ask about using the facilities without having a room. The lady said that wasn’t an option. I don’t know why they would just want bathrooms or a kitchen, but not a place to stay. I don’t know where they intended to go.
The girl also asked about a room. The price was $25 a person for the night. She didn’t seem to want to pay that. She asked if there was camping, but she said that she couldn’t offer camping officially since the place next door was a campground. I don’t know what that meant, but she did say camping was $18 a person.
The girl went outside to talk with her friend about it. I asked about the camping and she said that they don’t do camping at this time of year. I asked if the place next door she mentioned did and she said no. She said it would be too cold to camp at this time of year so she just doesn’t offer it. I told her my sleeping bag would be warm enough, but she didn’t seem to care. She was kind of rude. I said I’d ask my brother if $25 for a room was ok.
I ran back down to the car and told him the story. We drove off. We headed for the Holiday Park. The Holiday Park was $19. We would save a little bit of money by staying there. It had the kitchen we needed for dinner and hot water for our bottles. It was pretty cold outside, but we thought we could manage it. The lady at the counter said we could set our tent up anywhere we wanted.
We chose a spot near the kitchen which was actually a powered site, but we didn’t think anyone would be coming plus there were plenty of empty spots still.
We were pretty hungry and wanted to have dinner. We set up the tent really fast and went to the kitchen. We wanted to have spaghetti, with a piece of butter bread, a salad, and spinach and our normal cookie and chocolate for dessert. We had a glass of milk as well with some hot chocolate.
Once again a Chinese group of young people were in the kitchen making a huge feast. I don’t know what they had, but there were 5 of them. It was three girls and two guys that were staying in a cabin I believe. The Holiday Parks often include tent camping, campervan spots, and cabins or rooms of some kind. The cabin was basically a room with beds, but separate from each other. Nothing fancy.
Whatever they were eating it included scrambled eggs, French fries, some kind of chopped up meat, and a ton of vegetables. I don’t know if it was all mixed together or not, but it smelled really good and looked like a ton of food. Our food was good too, but there’s looked better.
We cleaned everything up and then went next door to the TV/Computer room. I needed to check to make sure my money was being transferred so I got on the internet. I bought an hour worth of time for $5. It was way too expensive, but I figured if I was going to get on the internet I may as well get enough time to do what I needed and see what else was going on in the world since I have been clueless for the most part without a TV or internet.
The order I put in for my Visa stock to sell didn’t go through. I had to redo it, but this time as a market order, which meant it would sell at whatever the going rate was. Before I tried to set a price limit and the limit wasn’t hit so the order was cancelled.
This meant I was going to need to get on the internet again to transfer the money to my bank account was the money was made. I was done with everything in 20 minutes, but still had 40 to waste. I got on Facebook, read some emails, and then read about the upcoming Healthcare Law decision by the Supreme Court. The decision is supposed to be made tomorrow. I guess I will read about it tomorrow since I will have to get on the internet again to transfer some money.
As I was playing on the internet the Cleveland Show was on followed by Good Burger. The Good Burger show is hilarious. I was listening to it and couldn’t stop laughing. My time ran out on the internet just as it ended.
I needed to write in my journal so I went and set in a chair near Andy. There were 4 rows of chairs lined up, each with about 10 chairs in them in front of the TV, the computers were in the back of the room. We watched South Park while we wrote. One of the Chinese guys came in the room and sat down in the front row of chairs a few down from me and watched South Park.
After the show ended Cops came on. I don’t ever watch it and didn’t pay that close attention as I was typing. The Chinese guy got up and left a little bit after it started. We stayed in the room until about 11 PM. We got our water bottles filled with hot water in the kitchen. A girl was in there washing dishes and I talked to her for a minute. She was staying in a campervan.
We went to the tent and saw frost on it. The tent had gotten wet in Wanaka from the rain and never fully dried out. We hoped it would dry out since we didn’t use it in Haast, but I guess it didn’t work so well. When I opened the door a little of the frost fell off onto my sleeping bag. I laid down to go to bed around 11:30 PM.