Where two next?

Antipodean travelogue through the eyes of two - one textile and one building lover. It'll be hard to differentiate the two!

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Fox & Franz Josef Glaciers (12) Days 12/13 (Post No. 99)

We left Queenstown around midday after eating one last time in Vudu Cafe. We were hoping to spend the night in the small town of Haast on the West Coast and visit the Blue Pools of Haast Pass enroute.

The town of Wanaka is on the route from Queenstown to Haast Pass and there are two alternative routes to take to get there. One is over the Crown Range Road, and the other is a much easier drive via Route 6. The Crown Range road knocks a good bit of mileage off the journey but it is not really for the faint hearted. We spent a lot of the time climbing the mountain range in first gear and even at that the camper van was struggling! It does offer some great views though and provided that the roads are not icy it is well worth the odd heart attack. Given that you are either climbing in first gear or braking I am not sure whether the Crown Range Road, though shorter, is actually any quicker. Here's some views from a lookout which is about half way up the mountain.

After the Crown Range the next major town is Wanaka. Situated on Lake Wanaka it is a very picturesque town that reminded us a lot of Queenstown. Here's a pic of the lake with snow capped mountains in the distance.

We didn't stop in Wanaka but kept going to Lake Hawea. We decided to eat here as we reckoned it was the last piece of civilisation we would see for a while and we were not wrong! Lake Hawea is also very beautiful and similar to Lake Wanaka in many respects.

After Lake Hawea our next stop was the Blue Pools of Haast Pass. I am afraid those of you expecting to see pics of the Blue Pools of Haast Pass on this post will only feel a fraction of the disappointment we felt on discovering that they had been closed by the Department of Conservation. For reasons unspecified the track was closed and we had no alternative but to drive on. You can see some pics of the blue pools by clicking here.

Luckily we were not traveling out of our way as the Pools were enroute to the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. Otherwise our journey could have been a waste of time . Having said that the route, despite the disappointment of not seeing the pools, was well worth while. The strangest thing we came across on the trip, and something we had never seen before, was a runaway vehicle ramp.

We were descending quite a steep, but by no means the steepest, mountain range and approx. every 500m there were signs giving the distance to the runaway ramp, 2km, 1.5km etc. I couldn't help but feel that if you were hurdling out of control the signs were poor comfort. It seems the people who designed the ramp didn't take into account the multitude of hair pin bends between the signs and your possible salvation! We literally had to more or less stop to get around some of the bends between us and the ramp, the official speed limit being 15km per hour.

If the ramp designers were trying to create a bit of suspense by signing the ramp 2km away it was quite effective as it seemed to take a lifetime to reach it. After every bend we would crank our heads around to see if the ramp lay ahead only for it to be thwarted by yet another collection of hair pins! By the time we did eventually get to it we forgot to take a photo, but basically as the road bends, yet again, to the right there is an uphill ramp straight ahead. While researching the ramp and trying to find a pic on the web I came across someone who had used the ramp as a lay-by!!!!! Wouldn't that be a nice surprise waiting for you if you did manage to get there!

Now if you have been paying attention you will realise that we were heading west yet again and after we had passed through Haast Pass over the dividing range we were back into the wonderful weather of the West Coast and its 6-9 metres of rain fall per year. No prizes for guessing then that the sun didn't exactly split the stones while we were there!

Small would be one way to describe Haast Village, non existent would be another. It is so small that we had passed through it before we realised we had finally arrived. Given it's size it will not surprise you to learn that we stayed that night in a camper van park south of Haast called Haast Beach Holiday Park and it gets a special mention here because the people running it were the most unfriendly people we came across on our trip. Once we had settled into the camper van site the rain started! We were due to travel to the Fox Glacier Village for our helihike the following day. We went to bed yet again praying the weather would improve by the morning.

We went into the village the next morning and waited to see if the hike would go ahead as planned. It didn't. We called another emergency meeting to discuss a further revision to the itinerary and the decision was made to go to the Franz Josef that afternoon and return to the camper van site in Fox Village. The hope being that the helihike would go ahead the next day. Here's a few pics taken at the Franz Josef Glacier. You can see from the pics that the visibility wasn't great for a helihike!

We ate a lovely meal that night in Cafe Neve watching the rain beat down, the signs yet again ominous for the next day. Would we get to go on the helihike or not? Stay tuned to find out.

Coming up next, the 100th Post!!!!!


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