Last time I left you all with visions of glacier ice tinkling in our highballs. The reality was equally pleasant. We tried it in several different drinks but the simplicity of it slowly melting into a nice white wine was sublime. What wasn’t quite so mellow, was sleeping in the valley of a glacier. With Fox Glacier looming in the background, we camped in beautiful pastureland next to a mostly dry creek. After the sun set though, it just kept getting colder and colder. Thank goodness for extra blankets!
Driving down the West Coast, we stopped at Maori Beach for “the custom of the country.” Travelers like to leave stones scrawled with names, stacked rock art and other we were here mementos. We added to the collection, but we had to work fast. The sand flies were vicious.
The same afternoon, we walked the Monroe Beach Track. At certain times of the year, the beach hosts Fiordland Crested Penguins for breeding and molting seasons. One trekker told us he had seen one earlier down the beach. He did NOT tell us of the sand fly plague that awaited us at the end of our pleasant rainforesty walk. Penguins 0, Sandflies 20. We didn’t stay long.
We did the Haast Pass on our way to Wanaka in one day. Following the Cook book, we stopped at a locals only creek to take a look at a seldom visited waterfall. It’s not in the other guidebooks or with any signage by the highway. No one else except us and the beautifully flowing falls.
We moved straight on to Roaring billy Falls next. The waterfall itself is nothing to write home about, at least not as it’s been quite dry here and it wasn’t up to full strength. The five-minute forest trek was fun though, with several hollow trees big enough to stand in.
Fantail Falls was great! We had a short forest walk followed by a short river stone crossing to get to the falls. What really made it so much more interesting was following Cooks advice and going downstream to where the next stream joins The Falls runoff. We the followed that stream up to a small chasm gushing crystal clear water. It was awesome to ford the waters and climb over rocks as we skirted the edges on our way up. I think we got about thirty feet before we decided we couldn’t go on without getting soaked.
Last stop that day was Blue Pools. It’s a short walk to a swing bridge that crosses the river and around the bend are these fabulous deep blue pools of water. On a warmer day, we definatly would have gone for a swim, but between the cool NZ air and the swarm of the sandflies, it was all we could do to snap a few pics and stack some rocks to join the other sentinels on the dry section of the riverbed.
We spent several days in Wanaka. It’s a beautiful little town that seems to be strictly for tourists. It was really nice to have a few meals out and go the Cinema Paradiso theatre there. The latest Die Hard movie was not that great. Bruce Willis, what were you thinking? Also, the popcorn? Sheesh! Maybe we’ve been spoiled by fresh popped at the Uptown, but Cinema Paradiso you could at least pop your own. Make it as special as your theatre already is, eh?
Outside Wanaka is Treble Cone Mountain. In the winter, this is a skiing mecca, but in the summer, it’s all about the paragliders. Marc got two days flying in here. Here’s another wonderful small New Zealand story: The second day we pulled up at the base of Treble Cone, we see a Flying Monkies T-shirt. You may remember the Flying Monkies as the awesome paragliding group in Hawaii. The guy wearing the shirt turns out to be Pete; Marc’s old instructor. He and his wife Annette were here on their honeymoon. It was great to watch the guys fly and talk with Annette. Later, the guys enjoyed some beers and Pete passed on one of his gold pans to us after showing us his haul so far. Unfortunately, they had to make tracks that afternoon, but what a happy accident!
We did do one hike in Wanaka. Right before we moved on, we parked opposite Puzzle World and tackled Iron Mountain. What was supposed to be a one hour tramp turned out to take two hours, but the three sixty views were incredible! We could see Albert Town, Wanaka, Treble Cone and shimmering lake waters.
We spent a few days outside of Arrowtown next. Found a lovely little park over property near a mountain bike track and actually got to park near the swing bridge. Our host was a lovely lady who teaches riding on the side and had the cutest little house. Marc did get one sled ride in from the top of Coronet Peak, and there were hopes conditions would improve while we were there but it was not to be. Instead, we checked out historic Arrowtown before heading towards Milford Sound. Oh yes; fall has come to the South Island as well. I’ve been told that March first was the beginning of fall here. I asked because the air here smells like fall and the Aspens (at least they sure look like them) have gone gold. It actually may be a little early for the leaves to drop, but it’s been so dry here they might be changing a bit early. Beautiful though, eh?