From Queenstown I took the Haast Pass to the west coast. Things became far less arid, and I found myself driving through a valley of temperate rain forest. The walls of the valley were littered with waterfalls; they seemed to come from the clouds themselves.
I walked to a couple of the waterfalls that I passed, but in many ways the ones I drove past were more impressive. Too high for anyone to walk to.
Exiting the pass, I quickly hit the coast. There was rainforest here as well. I stopped to take a walking track for views of the coastline. Away from civilisation the beaches border the forests, and are littered with driftwood.
I spent the night in the Fox Glacier township, and stayed in a farmhouse. Fortunately the village is so small that it's two pubs were only a short walk down one of the two roads. I sampled both.
My Airbnb hosts in Fox Glacier, John, suggested that I go and see Lake Matheson; so I did the following morning. It is known for its impressive reflections:
I then drove a further down a gravel track, to get a distant view of the glacier itself.
I also drove to the glacier access road, but didn't have time to walk the entire track to the glacier face. I had to get the Franz Josef glacier, a 35 minute drive away.
At Franz Josef I went on a helihike. This involved getting a helicopter on to the glacier, and then going on a hike with a guide.
The helicopter flew around the glacier before landing so that we could see the extent of the glacier.
Once on the glacier we hiked up towards the icefall�the glacier equivalent of a waterfall. Effectively an area that is steep, and so advances by several metres per day. This area forms crevasses in both directions, forming towers of ice. As these towers frequently collapse, we did not enter that area itself.
At the highest point of the hike, we went through an ice cave. Though not particularly roomy, and also fairly wet, it was an interesting experience. The ice was an impressive blue hue.
The guide used a pickaxe to carve out steps for us as we travelled. He described it as "like minecraft but harder work".
On our way down back to the makeshift helipad, ice fell from a steep part of the glacier above. It was quite close, but we were far enough away to be safe. In many ways we were an ideal distance to spectate the ice boulders plummet down the cliff. The guide described it as "large". He thought the fallen ice was the size of two houses.
Reaching the helipad, we then took a helicopter back down the mountain to the Franz Josef township.
I then traveled to Hokitika where I would spend the night. The beach at Hokitika was playing host to a sand and driftwood sculpture contest.
Tomorrow I cross Arthur's Pass and return to Christchurch.