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Day 22 – Franz Josef to Haast

November 6, 2012

Our plan for today was to stay around Franz Josef and chill out and maybe do a short walk around the area. Well we decided to take ourselves off to Fox Glacier and walk that area and we are so pleased we did. It is quite different to Franz Josef and we got much closer. In fact we got to within 100m of the end of the glacier and it was an awesome sight. Fox Glacier is the largest of the glaciers in NZ. It is possible to walk on the glacier but only with guides and it takes most of the day to undertake this hike. The other alternative is to go by helicopter and you get to land on the snow at the top of the glacier. There are only a few flights each day that do this and these are generally booked up in advance. Anyway I have an innate fear of flying in a helicopter so this was out of the question.

The walk through the glacial valley was more amazing than yesterdays was at Franz Josef. The landscape is quite different and there was evidence of recent rock and ice falls as well as what the river surges have down as water hurtles down at the peak of when the snow is melting. The colours and shapes of the boulders and rocks was fascinating. The picture opposite probably doesn’t do justice to the colours this piece of rock had within it.

Both the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are unique in that they descend from regions of perpetual snow to rainforest that is close to coastal areas.

The panoramic view looking down from the Fox Glacier through the glacial valley is awesome and is quite reminiscent of pictures I’ve seen of the moons landscape.

It was after we had completed this walk that we decided to change our plans for staying around Franz Josef. We set off for Haast which was going to be our next stopping off point tomorrow. It was going to be about a 2hr drive and doing this today which would allow us the opportunity to do one or two other things that we would have liked to have done but thought we might be short of time when we got to Queenstown later in the week.

We drove through rainforest for around 60km without seeing much other scenery and then as we rounded a corner there in front of us was a fantastic view of the Tasman Sea. It was like a mill pond and we pulled across to have lunch overlooking Bruce Bay. It was so peaceful and tranquil.

Something we have noticed about many of the beaches is the amount of tree roots, stumps, branches and in some instances whole trees that litter the top end of the beach, and Bruce Bay beach was no exception.

We continued our journey along state highway 6 which predominantly hugged the coast though we did do a bit of twisting and turning and climbing up and descending down but the views from time to time were spectacular.

We arrived in Haast which is at the top west end of Otago and Southland region. Haast is a tiny community on the coast where the wide Haast River meets the sea. In our guide books it is described as little more than a stopover and supply point for people travelling between the West Coast and the southern lakes. Apparently it is a good area for river fishing and surfing (not at the same time of course). We were also advised to fill up with fuel before driving over the Haast Pass to Wanaka! So I duly did though at $1.74 a litre it was nearly 20cents a litre more than we were paying elsewhere!! I wonder if the petroleum companies are sponsoring these guide books! The holiday park we are staying at is by far the most remote we have so far experienced. But as the guides stated it is little more than a stopover for us as we travel through to Queenstown tomorrow.

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