When we posted last we had just jumped out of a plane in Queenstown.The following day we drove southwards to Te Anau as this is the main connection town between Queenstown and the fjord lands.We stopped here and booked a trip to Milford Sound for the following day and then enquired about a local walk as we had a few hours to spare.We drove the short distance to the start site and had some lunch before we planned to set out.However after we finished we realized we didn't have any water and it looked like it was about to rain at any moment so we thought better of it and decided to continue on towards Milford and find a campsite as near as possible so we didn't have to get up at 5am to following day.We managed to get a spot by Lake Gunn which was the nearest campsite but still left us around 50km's to drive the next day.Here we had a pebble skimming competition and Helen managed to throw one stone so that it skimmed the water to her left and then bounce back up onto the shoreline - only she could do that with her wonky throwing abilities!!!!
Sunday we were up nice and early to have breakfast, pack up our campervan and drive to Milford Harbour to be ready for the 8:15 leaving time.On route we had to go through the 'Homer Tunnel' which is a 2km tunnel dug through the mountain side, and as we'd left so early the lights weren't even on so it was very eerie in there.At the other side of the tunnel it was raining and this did not stop till we much later on in the day, which we felt hard done by at the time, that was until we later found out that it rains at least two out of every three days and they have around 7.5m of rain each year!Everyone also said that the fjord lands look better in the rain and we're guessing they were right - even though we've never seen it in the sun!!!All the mountains around the sound are pure rock with no topsoil (the tree's simply use each other and small cracks in the rock to hang on to).As a result when ever it rains there are hundreds of waterfalls streaming down the cliff faces into the sea below which looks fantastic.The mist also gave the whole area real character adding a real mysterious feel to the place, and on top of this we were the first boat out so no one else was around.On our way back from the tour round the sound we stopped at the underwater observatory which is basically a floating building that has an underwater viewing gallery 8m down.The reason this is here is because the sea life 8m's down is the same as deep sea wildlife out in the ocean - around 200m's deep !The reason it is able to survive here at this depth is because it has been fooled into thinking its much deeper.The tree's stain the rainwater that in turn falls into the sound creating the dark waters below, as there's no topsoil around so the waters sediment free and lastly the waters are perfectly still due to the moraine at the sea's edge which was created from a glacier so it absorbs the sea's power.Here we saw various sea life and coral including 'black coral' which is actually white but it is incredibly rare to see due to the depths it grows in.We had around 40mins here before catching the boat back to the harbour.There wasn't much else to see by the harbour so we set offback towards Te Anau.On the way we decided to stop at The Chasm which was a walk past 2 raging waterfalls, and due to all the rain we'd had they were raging!!!The walk was only 20mins but we got absolutely soaked to the bone and had to try and change in the front seat of the car!Lucky we have curtains!!!!From here we set off back on the road and ended up driving straight through Te Anau as Helen was fast asleep and back up to Queenstown which was lovely and sunny.Here we decided to stop off at Kawarau Bridge which was where the first ever bungee jump was.I must admit I drove here intending on doing one but didn't know if I could go through with it so kept it quite from Helen.However after watching a couple of people do it I was feeling braver, and then they called 'last order's' for jumps that day so I managed to convince Helen that we should do one.We singed up for a tandem jump & after a quick toilet stop we were strapped up and on the edge ready to jump.They had asked us if we wanted to touch the water below, and we agreed but only with our hands, they however had other ideas and extended it further.Somehow we managed to jump easily enough and it wasn't as scary as I thought, that was until we got properly dunked!!! I ended up going in head first up to my waist and the water went up both of our noses!!!We however couldn't stop laughing and we really glad we'd done it on the way back up.We also brought the DVD so we have proof!After drying off we set off back on the road to find a campsite which we did just outside Wanaka.
The next day we packed up and headed into Wanaka and looked into a couple of good walks around the lake.We were however informed that it was due to rain soon so we'd get drenched - after all of our wet clothes from the walk and the bungee we decided against it!Instead we checked into a holiday campsite and had a much needed shower and then set off back into town to do our laundry.As soon as we'd finished the rain started and it did not stop for quite a few hours and it bucketed it down.We ended up sitting in the holiday park kitchen watching tv as there was nothing else to do as most 'attractions' had closed for the day.Eventually the rain stopped early evening so we went down to Lake Wanaka which was just at the bottom of the holiday park and went for a mini walk which was fantastic.The place was deserted due to the rain and the whole area seemed so peacefuland scenic, especially when the blue sky briefly came out.
The plan on Tuesday was to go on one of the walk around the lake as it was meant to be a much nicer day, and then up to the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers the following two days.However we saw the weather was meant to be bad on Thursday - when we wanted to do a hike, so we dropped the idea of the walk and drove up to the glacier country so we could see them in thesun and their full beauty.We arrived at Fox late afternoon and took the 30minute walk to the terminal face which was over all of the rock and debris that the glacier had deposited over the years.It was hard to take in that this thing had moved rocks the size of cars and generally the sheer number of rocks and boulders that were all over the place!We managed to get within 80m's of the terminal face and it was cool to see a glacier, although very cold.There was also a cloudy mist over head which made the temperature drop further.After a quick walk around and a few photo's we set off up the road to Franz Josef to see where we had to be the following day for our hike.After sorting this out we found a nice free campsite just out of town that would make it easy to get back into town tomorrow morning .
We checked onto the hike at 8am and we're kitted up with boots, crampon's (ice spikes), a jacket, gloves and hat.We then boarded a bus and were driven the short distance to the glacier car park.Here we had to walk the 2.5km to the glacier face which was made harder as the river was flooded so we had to climb up and over the rocks on the side of the valley to get there.Here we were divided up into groups and we had to put our spikes on.We then set off on our full day hike of the glacier.The beginning was made considerably easier as the guides had hacked stairs into the ice for everyone to walk up throughout the day but once we got to a certain height we had to make our own across the ice.We had a perfect day for it as there wasn't a cloud in the sky and we spent the whole morning walking around in our t-shirts.That was until we came to a blue cave that we had to climb through.Although this was awesome to do and very picturesque inside we got cold & soaked from rubbing up against the ice and from the melting ice dripping down from above.We managed to make it out but our jumpers soon went on.For the rest of the day we scaled mini peaks, climbed through caves, abseiled down 'walls' and generally had a brilliant time!The ice was beautiful and the shapes, crevasse and caves that we're created by the glacier moving down the mountain, and from the ice melting was fantastic.It looked like a giant frozen sea with large frozen waves everywhere.We hiked around 4km's on the ice and climbed up to a height of around 400m which gave great views down the valley the glacier had carved out.We made it back down into 'dry land' around 3ish but unfortunately we still had to trek the 2.5km's back to the car park.Back at the office we dropped off our equipment and then went for a well earned beer before returning to the campsite we'd stayed at last night.
Today we've driven up the coast to a place called Hokitika and then later we're going to head towards Arthurs Pass ready for our days walking tomorrow.
Hope everyone is well
Gavin and Helen