Wednesday, December 16, 2009

NZ 2009 Day 3 - Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers

The weather was definitely better in the morning. We ate a little, packed food for lake-side breakfast and we were on our way to Lake Matheson (around 30kms from our hotel) hoping to get a good photo opportunity - you know, the view of the views, the mirror lake.

Lake Matheson - Turn right off State Highway 6 at Fox Glacier and travel five kilometres along the Cook Flat Road where the Lake Matheson turn off is signposted.
From Lake Matheson
We got to the carpark and took some pictures of Mt Cook (the best one we had ever taken of it).

Walked to the "view of the views" location (around 30minutes walk).

We passed through this rainforest walk with lots of moss and ferns and trees.
We just couldn't resist taking pictures of them.

From Lake Matheson
Unfortunately, when we got to the location it was too windy and it was still a bit cloudy. This photo was all we got. No clear blue skies. No reflections of the snow-capped mountains. No mirror lakes.

All of the other visitors were disappointed.  Some of them continued the walk around the lake (which was around an hour or so). We just sat there (hoping the skies would clear up and the wind would die down) and ate our packed breakfast (cereals, biscuits and tuna sandwich). The kids played around taking videos and pictures of each other. They tried to make the most of what the surrounding has to offer - like pretending that a big rock was a surf board.

The "rainforest" area (with all the moss and ferns) was way colder than in the viewing deck. I had to remove my jacket because it was getting warmer by the minute (but not tropical-country-hot). But had to put them back on as we made our way back to the carpark.

From Lake Matheson
Mt Cook was hiding again

From Lake Matheson
at the carpark before heading to Fox Glacier

Since we didn't have any luck in getting the famous Mt Cook mirror image at Lake Matheson, we decided to go to Fox Glacier early. It was a short drive from Lake Matheson (just 5kms).

We stopped at a small Catholic Church on the way along Cook Flat Rd.
Our Lady of the Snows

From Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier - a 13 km long glacier located in Westland National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. It was named in 1872 after a visit by the then Prime Minister of New Zealand, Sir William Fox. It is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world. (wikipedia)

Glacier Valley Walk was around 1hr return. We decided not to take the Fox Glacier Teminal Facewalk Tour and do the walk by ourselves. Good thing we did so. We saved $168!

The walk can be considered quite easy (since the kids were able to finish the walk, no sweat) and there were green pole markers to follow. But no permanent track exists due to changing river course (as one of the signs there stated).

From the carpark we had to walk on rocky paths, sometimes muddy and slippery slopes
From Fox Glacier
We had to cross  a couple of streams/water falls to get closer. It's like going on an obstacle course.

Add the freezing cold weather to that.

From Fox Glacier
But the kids didn't mind the weather at all. They were leaving us behind. They enjoyed playing with the flat rocks/pebbles scattered around. It would have been a good day to play with the water if it was not FREEZING COLD.

From Fox Glacier
water was coming from the glacier and there were chunks of ice which broke off from the glacier

Ira having fun. Dancing and posing his way to the glacier.
From Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier was HUGE! Although we weren't able to see the far end because of clouds (again), we were able to get close to it to see the terminal face and also some chunks of ice which had broken off from the main glacier.

From Fox Glacier
terminal face of the glacier through a telephoto lens

From Fox Glacier
this is the closest we could get with safety in mind

From Fox Glacier
this was taken with us facing the glacier and the mountain as background

After a grueling hour or so at the glacier, taking in all it's coldness and glory, we decided to head back to town and have lunch at Cook Saddle.

Cook Saddle Cafe
19 State Highway 6
Fox Glacier 7859, West Coast, New Zealand
Tel:(03) 751 0700

We had pork ribs + rice and chicken licken kids meal ($35). The food was really good. Kids had free ice cream for the kids meal. They liked the ice cream and wanted to get one more. It would have costed $4 for another one though :)

From Fox Glacier
the kids playing outside Cook Saddle. It was stated in the sign in front of the restaurant that there was a play area, main reason why we chose to eat there. Unfortunately, there was really no play area but an open area on the side of the restaurant, with grass and some benches.

It got colder and colder towards the afternoon. We still had one more glacier to conquer so we drove back to Franz Josef town to where Franz Josef Glacier was.

Franz Josef Glacier - a 12 km long glacier located in Westland National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand's South Island. Together with the Fox Glacier 20 km to the south, it is unique in the fact that it descends from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres above sea level amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest. (wikipedia)

From the carpark, we could already see Franz Josef.

The walk from the carpark to Franz Josef Glacier (Glacier Valley Walk - 1hr20minutes return) was easier than that of Fox Glacier because there were no streams to cross (unless you decided to walk on the right side then you have to cross the water), but we didn't get that close to Franz Josef as we did at Fox Glacier. Hubby was already tired of walking.

The path towards the glacier started at the carpark, passing through flat footpath with canopy of trees, transitioning to rocky paths, no up and down walkways unlike in Fox.
pathway to Franz Josef Glacier.

Franz Josef from afar

using a telephoto lens

there appeared to be staircase-like formations on top of the glacier
it seemed to glow at times
Franz Josef looked longer and bigger than Fox, I think mainly because there it was less cloudy and we could see the upper part of the glacier.

From afar (using telephoto lens), we could see people on top of Franz Josef Glacier hiking on ice! They were like ants marching in line. I took photo of them until they reached the terminal face. We were quite amused at how they could have walked there for hours and how they have gone down. It looks really scary.

From Franz Josef Glacier
Franz Josef really is massive. The people seen here in red and blue gears were from a guided tour.

From Franz Josef Glacier
care for a splash?

This place served as our "base" where we stayed the whole time, taking pictures of the glacier and surroundings while the kids play around.

Family pic before leaving

can't resist to take a snapshot with this Glacier Guides tour bus. 
We were thinking of joining this tour in the earlier stages of planning but decided to explore on our own.
 I guess it was a good decision since we saved on money (tours could cost up to $100++) and we were able to see the glaciers close enough to appreciate it, on our own pace.

After a whole day of visiting lakes and glaciers, we passed by the Landing Bar and Restaurant for early dinner (early cause there was still sunlight). This place was recommended by the frontdesk officer. We had chicken curry with vegies and rice, and for the kids chicken nuggets, fries and vegies. There were a lot of people in the restaurant, and we were satisfied with the food.

Landing Bar and Restaurant
SH 6 Franz Josef
Tel:03-752 0229
Hours: Mon – Sun 11:00am – 0:00am

Franz Josef Town Centre

the boys were asleep as soon as they got into the car

When we got back to our accommodation, I had to use the internet to reconfirm our cruise at Queenstown.  I went to the computer/internet room and I was stunned. I had to use coins in order to use the computer and internet! I had to read the instructions a few times to make sure that I do the right thing ( I was trying to be careful and all that). Just to be really sure I don't mess up and waste my $1 (for 7minutes), I waited for my ever-reliable-tech-savvy-hubby.

Another day is over. Visiting 2 glaciers in one day was a really fun but exhausting experience. For those whoe are into hiking or trekking, there are a lot of walks available. Just take a copy of the town map and everything is in there.


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