Iqon's New Zealand Blog

Archive for 7 January 2010

Part 5: Fox Glacier, Queenstown and Milford Sound

by on 7 January 2010, under Julekalender, New Zealand, Hiking

After having visited the town with the fitting name of Greymouth we went on to Fox Glacier where we the following day were going to take a “Full Day Walk” on the giant glacier. It was a very impressive experience to walk around on such a big piece of ice with clamp-ons on the boots. The only negative about the tour was the fact that it was so guided. I felt like a small child in kindergarten when we were told to remember to keep our hands on the chains along the quite wide path going up towards to glacier. Of course it did not help that the guide seemed a bit short-tempered. Especially the big child Søren seemed to make her quite angry at some points. Of course I understand that it is necessary to impose a lot of safety restrictions on a tour like that since a lot can go wrong when you are walking around on a gletcher. Still, I wouldn’t have minded if it had been a bit less “touristy”. Below I have chosen a couple of the 178 photos which still remains on my computer from the trip after severe sorting and editing of the photos from the eight hour trip.

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The glacier lurking in the background.

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Hele “The Jonas Family” before we have gotten to the glacier itself.

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Me on my way into a hole in the glacier.

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Søren became very excited when he got the opportunity to kill me with an ice axe. In general there was a lot of talk about killing and eating me on the trip. But that is another story.

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On the glacier we found the finest kind of mud. Apparently it is supposed to be really good for the skin so naturally we had to put it in our faces.

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Parts of the glacier reminded me of Supermans Fortress of Solitude if I used a bit of my incredible imagination.

From the glacier we went on to the little town Haast where we met Sarah and Chris from PSV. They were taking a trip around the South Island in the opposite direction. It was nice to see them again and exchange stories about what we had seen and done on the Island so far. It was also here I solved the problem of my missing watch since Chris and Sarah accepted to go by the kayak place in Punakaiki to see if they had it – and that is the solution to “The Mystery of the Disappeared atch” which I (rather misleadingly) could have named either this or the previous blog post.

The day after we continued towards Queenstown, the big tourist trap of New Zealand which people go to in order to be charged to much money for stuff (especially extreme sports) you can do elsewhere but probably not in such a gorgeous looking location with the surrounding mountains. This Queenstown visit on the 25th of November had been one of the only specific points in our plan from the very beginning since Borghil needed to take a plane back to Auckland from which she had to return to Bergen in Norway a couple of days later. The same day we also left Caroline on her own in Haast – she was going to meet up with her boyfriend Miles for about a week. The family was suddenly split.

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Without Caroline and her car it was back to the puzzle from the beginning of the trip. Notice how Borghild laughs at the situation, Kristian just observes Skott’s poor attempt to pack the car, Søren pretends to be occupied by something outside the frame while I disclaim any responsibility for the mess by playing photographer.

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Before Borghild left the South Island she (and the rest of us too) got to see an excellent example of the beautiful views New Zealand has to offer.

We stayed in Queenstown a single night. Before we left the next day for Te Anau we went up with the gondolas to get an excellent view of the city. We also rode on luges, sort of a one man sled with wheels on it.

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A bit of the view.

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The souvenir shop sold lots of interesting crap as souvenirs shop tend to do. Here I’m dressed in a lovely and very fashionable sheep hat with a fitting purse and even a sheep shaped backpack on my back! Especially the cap with the build in mittens is both practical and stylish.

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You also meet interesting people in Queenstown. Here: The Purple Lady.

As mentioned we went on to Te Anau where we stayed for a couple of days. Te Anau is situated two hours from Milford Sound, a fiord (not a sound as the name might indicate to some) which is a big tourist attraction in New Zealand – and not without reason. Since we weren’t allowed to walk the Milford Track we went along with the next best thing: A sail trip around the fiord. The drive to Milford Sound was an incredible experience by itself with giant rocks, filled with water falls created by the heavy rain, rising on both sides of the hilly road we were driving on. Not far from the where the ferry left we arrived at a one way tunnel, Homer Tunnel*. While we were waiting to be able to pass through we could admire the fascinating Kea birds** which tried to destroy the parked cars. At one point one of the birds went and sat on the side-view mirror. We got to take a couple of good photos of it before it jumped onto the roof of the car and ran towards the other side of it. Skott was suddenly very eager to roll up his window for some reason.

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”Kea on side-view mirror”.

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It is a bad idea to have antennas or anything else sticking out of your vehicle when Keas are nearby. A trailer filled with bicycles was severely attacked by the birds who could not stay away from the tempting rubber tires.

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An example of the winding road leading to Milford Sound.

The three hour long sailing trip started out with a “Kiwi barbeque” but the meat which looked like chicken also tasted like chicken and we started to think that they might actually not have served us the protected bird which is near extinction. While we were on the boat it really started raining cats and dogs. It was not as bad as it may sound since this meant that the rocks around us became filled with pretty waterfalls which would not have existed if the sun had been shining. We saw small penguins of a specific rare species (only about a 1000 should be left) which can only be found in Milford Sound, sea lions and dolphins that swam with the boat. We also stopped at an underwater observatory where we got to see the sea life a couple of meters below sea level.

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See if you can find two small penguins on this photo.

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Dolphins swam with the boat for a short while.

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Lots of waterfalls.

After the trip we went back to Te Anau. I invested in some new hiking gear including a new big back pack. When we came back to the hostel Søren made pancakes and after the consumption of those he took the car and went back to party in Queenstown for a couple of days. The three last members of the original group of six, Kristian, Skott and I, were going to conquer another Great Walk, Kepler Track.

Kepler Track is a 3-4 days walk which goes over…

And with that small teaser (this post definitely deserves the tag “bad teaser”) I will once again leave you alone.

Foot notes (yeah, I remembered them in this post too):
*About Homer Tunnel
Homer Tunnel is very different from any other tunnel I have ever seen. It has been blasted directly out of the rock and the walls in the 1270 m long tunnel look like they must have done immediately after the blast without any extra form of fortification. The raod is wide enough for two small vehicles to pass each other but if to big busses meet each other inside they will be in very big troubles. Therefore traffic lights have been put up in each end of the tunnel – they change every 15th (fifteenth!) minute. This is only in the summer periods, though. In winter time it is too dangerous to have cars queuing up in front of the entrances due to the risk of avalanches. Apparently risking direct collisions between to big vehicles inside a dark tunnel is much better.

**About Kea
Kea is one of the only alpine parrots in the world. The bird is said to be extremely intelligent and incredibly curious. We got to see that ourselves at Milford sound where they flocked around the cars trying to find food, or other interesting objects they could steal, peck or investigate. The bird has received the nickname “The Clown of the Mountains” because of the mess it makes of backpacks, boots and cars which they often destroy or steal small objects from. It is a really impressive bird with it’s green feathers and red parts underneath the wings. It is really big and does not seem to be afraid of humans at all. The bird can only be found in New Zealand and there are not that many of them left.

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