04.02.2012 - 04.07.2012
After kayaking and hiking in Abel Tasman National Park, we started our journey to the southern portion of the South Island. Ironically, the west coast of the South Island is also known as the “wet coast” due to its heavy rainfall, but we have not had a drop of rain and the weather has been spectacular. We continue to keep our fingers crossed that the rain will hold off.
After a day and a half of driving through gorgeous countryside, we were in glacier country. The area is famous for two glaciers in particular - Franz Joseph and Fox. They both flow down from Mt. Cook, New Zealand’s highest peak, and over thousands of years have carved the mountain valleys they now sit in. We hiked to both glaciers to get a better look, but because of safety concerns, we were never closer than 200 yards. They were still impressive, even from a distance.
At the pancake rocks on our drive (wind and water have carved out the rock so they now look like pancake stacks
Even the view in your rearview mirror is pretty amazing
Views along our drive of the west coast
A view of Fox Glacier in the background
At Fox Glacier we decided to partake in a pricey but well worth it helicopter ride. Neither of us had ever flown in a helicopter before, so we were both pretty excited. When we arrived our pilot looked to be about 20-years old and, although I am irritated at the youth discrimination I receive at my own job, I found myself questioning his experience level. But, in the end, our child-pilot got us up and around safely and gave us a great tour – so now I chide myself for my doubt. After experiencing the glacier from the air, I now feel like there is no better way to see it – you can really appreciate the grandeur of it all. Jeff’s enthusiasm for the helicopter ride continues on and now he has another expensive hobby he’d like to learn
A bird's eye view of the glacier
The majority of the glacier (at the top)- it's over 100 meters deep in parts
A view of the glacier from below at its base
After sleeping at a sea side campervan site just south of Fox Glacier, we started the drive to Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world and our next destination. After more mind blowing scenery in route (New Zealand is truly up there with the most beautiful places I have ever seen), Jeff casually mentions that we are driving past the spot where commercial bungee jumping was born - Kawarau Bridge.
Some of the great scenery we were alluding to
Life in the Jucy
Bungee jumping has been on our to-do lists for some time, but I don’t like heights (skydiving was a major accomplishment for me), so I was never sure that I was going to cross this one off my list. But, since we were driving by, I did agree to stop and check it out. After seeing a woman my mom’s age (which is quite young ) take the plunge, I blurted out “I’m in” and quickly signed up before I could change my mind.
Between the two of us, I volunteered to go first and was feeling pretty good while making small talk with the man who was tying my feet together. But, even though I thought I had it all together, once my toes were over the edge of the platform and I could see how far I was suppose to fall, I said: “I don’t think I can do this”. My very encouraging bungee jump attendant informed me that yes, I can in fact do this. So, before I tried to talk myself out of it, I sucked it up, leaned forward, and jumped. At first, the sensation was the same as skydiving – stomach falling 1000 miles a minute – but once the bungee caught, I just felt like I was floating. There was no whip lash like you might think. Once I was back on solid ground, it was Jeff’s turn. He, of course, just walked over and jumped like it was no big deal – one of these days I am going to find something that really freaks him out! Bungee Jumping: Glad I did it, but I doubt I’ll get into it recreationally
If you want to check out the video of us taking the plunge you can click below:
Elizabeth's Jump & Jeff's Jump
About to take a leap of faith
Quite the head-rush hanging upside down like that!
A view of the bungee bridge
We decided to stop for the night just outside of Queenstown in Arrowtown, an impossibly picturesque little town – I completely fell in love with it. It might have had something to do with the magic of fall – red, yellow, and orange trees were everywhere. We did eventually make it to Queenstown, a pretty cute town itself. While no Arrowtown, it definitely has an “Aspen or Breckenridge” feel and we enjoyed checking out the downtown and shops.
The fall colors in Arrowtown
After two days in and around Queenstown, we moved on to our last stop on the wet coast – the Milford Sound. We actually got to the harbor just in the nick of time for the last tour boat of the day. While the views from the tour boat were nice, the drive up was just as gorgeous with tons of mountains and rolling hills dotted with sheep. Apparently, the “sound” in Milford Sound is actually a misnomer – it’s a fjord. A fjord is carved out by glaciers while a sound is carved out by a river – learn something new everyday!
A view of Milford Sound
One of the waterfalls in the area
The scenery driving to the Sound
For the next few days we are going to explore the southern tip of the South Island and then head up to Christchurch for what will be – gasp – the last week of our trip! We’ll write more soon!