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My Travel Diary
  April 9th
Nelson->Westport->Punakaiki National Park->Franz Joseph

West Coast We drove to Westport (fairly uneventful other than a quick stop off to cross the longest swing bridge in NZ) and proceeded to visit the seal colony. It was at this point that I realised I had made my second camera screw-up of the trip. Along with the Nikon I had purchased an Olympus Stylus Epic as a handy point-and-shoot for when I could not be bothered lugging the SLR around. Unfortunately this camera is so small it is easily misplaced (or at least that was my excuse) - after turning the car inside-out four times I worked out I had left it in our room at the Nelson YHA. A quick drive to an area for cellphone coverage and a call confirmed my screw-up. Thankfully they were kind enough to send the camera to the Queenstown YHA for our arrival on the Monday - unfortunately it meant I would not have the use of it over the next 3-4 days (which meant lugging the Nikon around and relying on Connie's digital camera shots elsewhere).

Peters Pool The West Coast is without a doubt though simply stunning. Long straight roads with occasional windy sections down the wild coastline. Punakaiki National Park is the home to the famous Pancake rocks, which we were fortunate enough to arrive at for the one hour day they spout with the tide in. A great place to stop for lunch. We continued south through Greymouth, only notable for a couple of bridges (which are one lane for cars, trains and bikes!) and loooong straight roads. Upon arrival in Franz Joseph we did the quick walk to the lookout at the glacier, and the side walk to Peter's Pool for the lovely reflection. The glacier is impressive being so close to sea level. The Franz Joseph YHA provided sufficient lodgings for the night - dinner was pizza at the local pub in front of another rugby game on the big screen...

Pancake Rocks Pancake Rocks Pancake Rocks
April 10th
Franz Joseph->Fox Glacier

Franz Joseph Face First up for the day was a helicopter scenic flight over the Franz Joseph and Fox Glaciers, landing on the Fox for 15 mins or so. What a blast - incredibly smooth to fly in (my first time in a helicopter) - I was petrified my motion sickness would make the experience unpleasant (which I have no doubt it would have been in a small plane). Spectacular scenery up the glaciers that you can't see from below - I think a day walk on them would be in order next time (or a heli-hike). Next up was a walk to the Franz Joseph terminal face for a close up look at the glacier - although they have the boundary ropes quite far back (which didn't seem to stop a few people!). You can see massive chunks of ice break off and float down the river from the glacier mouth as you stand there - needless to say it was a little chilly.

Franz Joseph Glacier Hole Walkers on Franz Joseph Next we headed to Fox Glacier - closer than I had expected (only 22kms). We did the return trip to the terminal face here too, however it was less impressive than the Franz Joseph. Next was a drive to Lake Matheson, famous for its reflective qualities for postcard views of the Southern Alps. The best time is early in the morning to get still water for the reflections, but nonetheless it was a pleasant short walk to the jetty lookout. This night was the worst accommodation of the trip - thanks to the place we booked into shifting us elsewhere (giving a tour bus priority to the premises) we ended up at a crap hole place of "cheap" lodgings owned by a tavern. Needless to say if we had known in advance we would have stayed the extra night at Franz Joseph which was cheaper, much more pleasant and only a 10 min drive away. Nonetheless we had dinner at a pub again in front of another rugby game, and then popped across the road to a fairly impressive glowworm dell ($2).

  April 11th
Fox Glacier->Jackons Bay->Haast Pass->Wanaka

Lake Matheson Up early to do the 40 min walk to the best photo spots around Lake Matheson - unfortunately not quite early enough (9am when we got there) and in the future would suggest getting there by 8am as clouds started rolling in over the mountains and the wind got up. Nonetheless it was a majestic sight, unfortunately I only had time for one photo (badly composed) before the wind blew clouds in. We headed back for breakfast (ate it at the place we were supposed to be in, making the owner feel guilty since there was no kitchen at the other flea pit). Heading south we took the extra detour to Jacksons Bay, which provides superb views back up the coast and is a lovely area.

Back on the main highway we drove through the Haast pass, which is beautiful. Predominantly rainforests, there are numerous walks and tracks to waterfalls, pools, and lookouts that make this worthy of taking your time through. Thunder Creek Falls was the most impressive waterfall of the trip to date (I was too lazy to go back to the car to get my camera which I regret now!).

Lake Wanaka Next we came along the coast of Lake Wanaka, which provides more stunning views, as well as Lake Hawea, whose backdrop of mountains looked painted on. The Wanaka YHA was fairly basic but friendly.

  April 12th

Diamond Lake Walk More preparation needed for the Milford Track, so we did the Diamond Lake walk (about 2-2.5 hours), the first hour of which you should practise for by running up the stairs of the Empire State building. Unfortunately it was another gloomy day and the pictures cannot do it justice, but it was fabulous views over the lake from the top. Sensing the rain coming in we descended considerably quicker than the ascent, decided not to do any further walks that day and drove to Queenstown over the Crown Ranges via Arrowtown. Again, wet weather was not conducive to scenery or walking around so we checked up on the e-mails at the YHA, collected my camera (yippee!) and crashed to save energy for the Milford Track starting the next day...

Diamond Lake Walk Diamond Lake Walk

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  Last Updated June 22nd, 2002