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Saying goodbye to Nachos…I mean Wanaka
We decided to really go for it and make the 6 hour drive up the west coast from Wanaka to Greymouth. Our list of places to see on the South Island was getting shorter and shorter as we drove around, and thru and across the island. Our list of things to “come back again and see” was getting longer and longer.
The road between Wanaka and Greymouth, was populated with small towns and wilderness and not much else. So we figured it would be a pretty straight shot. We were wrong, and happily so! We saw many a National Parks sign informing us of a hike or a waterfall and more often than not, we stopped. It was a lovely excuse to stretch our legs and backs.
I quickly realized that we could have stopped by the Blue Pools on our way out of Wanaka instead of making a special trip to see them. Oh well, lesson learned! One of the very few pitfalls of Itener-less Travel.
We go chasing New Zealand waterfalls
We pulled off the highway into a smallish carpark and hiked 5 minutes out to Fantail Falls.
Its a lovely little one of the New Zealand waterfalls that cascades into the crystal clear Haast River. The banks of which reminded me of the Makarora River near the Blue Pools: covered in smooth multicolored stones. It was another one of those incredibly beautiful, supremely peaceful spots that we discovered by chance. I could have stayed all day sitting on those shores soaking in the majesty of Mt. Aspiring National Park.
Another of the New Zealand Waterfalls
A little further down the road we stopped again. This time it was to see Thundering Creek Falls. We stepped out on to the viewing platform. A wall of sound and spray coming across the river hit us. Thundering Falls is a powerful horsetail “style” waterfall and certainly earns its moniker.
If you are a fan of waterfalls and want to see a wide variety, head to the South Island of New Zealand. If you want to see a majority of those waterfalls lined up in a row and only minutes apart, head to Mt. Aspiring National Park and get on Haast Pass SH-6. You can avail yourself of Joe’s Creek Falls, Diana Falls, Depot Creek Falls, Douglas Falls, and, yup, Roaring Billy Falls! And that’s just naming a few. Its hard to beat New Zealand Waterfalls.
Ryan and I could have spent all day touring the waterfalls of that area but we had to get a wriggle on, for up ahead there be the glaciers.
Having a blast at Fox Glacier
A mist was forming as we pulled into the gravel and dirt carpark for the Fox Glacier Valley Walk. We hiked the full length of the trail to the lookout at the glaciers terminus. The round trip is just under 3km, but the hike took much longer than its length should have taken due to some blasting. Yes, blasting. Pyrotechnics. Explosives. There were a few crews of Parks Works breaking up large boulders that had fallen on the trail. So we waited and watched with a small group of like-waylaid hikers.
This is one of the things I love about New Zealand. In the US of A if there was blasting to be done, the park and trail would have been closed off for months to all visitors. But here they just had some barriers and trusted people to stay behind them and wait patiently. If someone had crossed said safety barrier and was blown apart or clonked on the head, that was their own damn fault, yes? Yes.
Forty-five minutes later, the offending boulders were safely and cleanly broken apart and the crews scurried around clearing the rubble. The workers guided us handily thru the blasting zone, keeping an eager eye out for small craters and traces of DET-cord. We headed towards the steep incline that led to the glacier look out. Finally, we reached the top, only slightly winded. We marveled at the opportunity to see yet another ice giant so close, took some pictures and headed back. On the way it began to rain. Ryan and I agreed that, with the high cliffs, dense foliage, and gravely river bed, the surrounding area had a very Jurassic World sort of feel to it. We kept a weather eye open for velociraptors.
Back on the road
It began to rain as the carpark came into view. Lunch time was nearing and we were hoping to find a place to grab some fish ‘n chips. But we soon realized that between the small towns and the restaurants catering to tour buses, our fish ‘n chips would have to wait til supper. We made due snacking on crackers, kiwis, tuna, ham, and other food stuffs tucked away in our car.
Not too much farther down the road we came across the entrance to the Franz Joseph Glacier experience and decided to take a look. But it began to rain even harder, and we got so socked in with fog that visibility was almost nil in the canyon. With very little regret we reversed direction out of the carpark and passed on seeing that final glacier.
We finally arrived in Greymouth at the Ashley Hotel with tired butts and very full bladders, but in excellent spirits. A quick check-in at the front desk and we were dropping our bags off in our room. Then we were off in search of dinner. Seven minutes later we scored with Cobden’s Takeaways. In very little time we rushed the precious, newspaper wrapped parcel (and 3 packets of Watties Tomatoe Sauce) back to our hotel room. The piping hot fish was more than acceptable. Sporting a crisp outside and a melty (can fish be melty?) center. The short, thick, chips almost popped as you bit them. There was a slight hint of end-of-the-day oil, but for these hungry travelers, that was easily overlooked. We tucked in and had ourselves a feast.
A much needed walk
After we washed up, ahem, recycled the newspaper (I love takeaway!) we grabbed our jackets and headed down the road for a walk. An intensely desired activity after the long day of driving and the deep-fried smorgasbord we had recently ingested. Heading towards the shoreline we found an expansive seaside park, complete with play ground equipment and two full sized rugby pitches. We watched a few local teams practice drills and then continued on to the beach.
Don’t harass the penguins
Running parallel to the beach was a fully paved foot path with the occasional break in the shrubs where one could tumble out on to the sand. Ryan and I took the left arm and walked a fair way down. On the path was a notice warning passers-by to keep an eye out for Blue Penguins, as it was mating season and their nests were near by. The sign also requested of dog-walkers that they prevent their canines from “harassing” the penguins. We never did see any penguins being harassed, thank the Maker.
Walking out onto the beach we discovered it was covered in smooth rocks ranging in size from hummingbird egg to rugby ball. We sat and watched the waves. On the horizon storm clouds were gathering and the sun was setting all silvery and pale gold.
Closing with kiwis
Ryan could feel his blood sugar begin to plummet so we turned back towards the hotel. A quick stop was made at the New World market for some new snacks – Super Wine tea biscuits (which turned out to be a favorite of mine), Bluebird potato chips, and, more kiwis!
- Wanaka to Wanaka (and Mount Cook)
- Milford Sound Cruise
- Traveling the South Island of New Zealand (Part 3)