We have had some hectic days of sightseeing and I’ve fallen behind on the blog posts. After our Nugget Sound trip, we drove the scenic drive up to Manapouri Lake where our trip to Doubtful Sound would take place. The Fjordlands are a beautiful place! We elected to stay at a lakeside hotel for a treat. It was like a small studio with separate livingroom/kitchinette, bedroom and bathroom. But, the real treat was the view out the front of the lake and surrounding mountains!
After a very pleasant stay at the hotel, we got up and left to catch our 8:30 boat for the Doubtful Sound tour. This tour is in three parts – first a ride on the Manapouri Lake to the other end. Then a tour of an amazing hydro-electric power station. And, finally our tour of the Doubtful Sound on a bigger tour vessel (a big power cat). I’ll have a separate post describing this trip in more detail soon (along with lots of photos – we took nearly 500 during the sound tour). We had a fantastic day – and my weather prediction turned out quite well since normally it rains 2 out of 3 days here and we had sunshine! We also were lucky to see a lot of wildlife along the way.
After Doubtful Sound we drove to the nearby Te Anau on another lake in the Fjordlands. We stayed at a campground there for the night. Our plan was to try and drive at least as far as Wanaka the next day to set up for going to Fox Glacier while the weather was good. We left the next morning and first drove to Queenstown. There we booked a half-day tour at Fox Glacier for the next afternoon. We started looking closer at the maps and realized we would need to drive as far as Haast. When we got to Wanaka we drove into town to have some ice cream and stretch our legs. It turned out to be a bit longer of a stop than intended. I locked the car with the key in the ignition! We called the local equivalent of AAA (we had bought insurance when we bought the car). And someone came within the hour to open our car for us.
The drive was amazingly scenic. After passing a big lake, we ended up on the other side of lake Wanaka. Then we entered the Mount Aspiring National Park. OMG, that was a beautiful place! We really, really wished we had allowed more time so we could stop. We did stop at a waterfall called Thundering Falls. But, there were so many places and walks we saw along the way. Incredible! We’ll have to go back there someday. We finally ended up in Haast and went to a campground. It was a long day of driving.
It was a warm evening since we were close to the beaches. And, it was hot in our van. But, we couldn’t open the windows without letting in lots of the local variety of mosquitoes (sand flies). Finally it got cool enough around 11 PM to go to sleep.
We left the next morning and started driving to Fox Glacier. The road along the west coast goes up on coastal mountain roads and was quite curvy. So, it took longer than expected. We also stopped and took photos along the way. But, finally we arrived in the town of Fox Glacier and checked in early for our walk. We then went to a cafe across the street and ordered a pizza.
We had a great walk up on the Fox Glacier. Our guide was informative and we really enjoyed the walk. More about this when I write about our glacier visit in another post with photos.
After the glacier walk we drove to Franz Josef Glacier. Another curvy mountain road drive that had us arriving in the late afternoon. We got situated in another campground and then went to town to buy ice and some dinner foods. It was supposed to rain the next day, so we decided we would stay an extra day and do laundry and relax a bit the next day.
In the morning, I was hailed by another camper who turned out to be our friend Jennifer from the sailing catamaran s/v Ile des Grace! We hadn’t seen them since last fall in Vava’u! It turns out they sailed on to Australia last fall and then did some touring in southeast asia. Unfortunately, they are in a real dilemma now because of the pirates in Somalia. They had planned to go to the Mediterranean this coming fall. And, they can’t afford to ship their boat through the dangerous waters (current quotes were about $50,000 to ship your boat) – or take the time to sail the long way around Africa. They now think they’re going to have to sell their boat in Australia and just fly home instead of complete their circumnavigation! How sad!
Ile des Grace also knew our friends on s/v Zephyrus and had spent time with s/v La Tortue. They actually left Nukulofa in Tonga for Fiji on the same day the La Tortue went to Kelefesia. Unfortunately, La Tortue had equipment failure and their boat ended up on the reef. The crew was rescued, but their boat was lost. We ended up diving on the boat, where it was sunk by other boaters, later when we visited Kelefesia (see the slideshow in this post for photos of our dive on La Tortue). Unfortunately, Iles des Grace was headed to Fox Glacier next and only have 3 weeks. So, we had to say goodbye.
That evening, I ate something bad and ended up sick the next day. In the morning, I watched some TV and heard about the horrific earthquake and tsunami in Japan! There were no ill effects from the tsunami here in New Zealand, and Tahina is safely 15 miles up a curvy river in Whanagarei anyway.
We are now in Greymouth after a half-day drive up the less mountainous coast. I finally recovered from the bad food and had some dinner. We plan to continue heading north and make our way eventually to take the ferry to the north island. We hope to be back in Whangarei by early April.