We left Franz Josef town and backtracked south towards Fox Glacier and Lake Matheson as there were finally some blue skies and we'd heard that the walk around the lake is one of the best in the west. Boy, are we glad we did the detour - it was one of the most amazing walks I have been on (apart from the Camino in Spain)!
The road to Lake Matheson runs through dairy country - it's a flat plain with plenty of cows grazing. Then, once you get out the car and head onto the path and boardwalk - every corner brings another beautiful view. The path leads you to a swing bridge, boardwalks and viewing platforms from which you can take photos of the distant snow capped mountains reflected in the still waters of the lake which is surrounded by dense, green native forest.
The rain had fallen heavy that night, by the forest was so thick with vegetation that there was water dripping and running through everywhere. The red pine trees towered above us and the giant fern trees shed their red leaves. Moss covered every surface - it was like walking through a fantasy forest - I half expected some elves and sprites to come flying out!
We finished our walk as it started to rain, so we took refuge inside the Matheson Cafe - just in time for lunch! The cafe building has huge floor-to-ceiling windows which afford panoramic views of the surrounding farming countryside and, of course, Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in the distance. I ordered the award-winning Lamb Burger: Manuka honey and herb lamb pattie, salad greens, mint and apple chutney on toasted bun with handmade chips. Mmmmm, delicious!
We had to tear ourselves away from the cafe with the gorgeous views, as we had over 150kms to drive through mountains passes and it was already 2pm. We passed by the famous Bushman's Cafe on Route 6, but unfortunately it is closed on Sundays. Onwards to Hokitika - a tiny town that's famous for it's jade - known by the Maori as Pounamu.