Monday, December 28, 2009

The West Coast of New Zealand

Since Christmas Day, we've been busy continuing to visit some familiar haunts as well as some new places we missed five years ago. We were also busy playing the role of salespeople in an effort to make bookstores and information centers more aware of our New Zealand Waterfalls book.

But in terms of sightseeing, we went to Queenstown on Boxing Day. It was a very busy place and certainly not nearly as dead as we remembered it five years ago. It also seemed to be a bit more developed though we kind of expected that since just about everything these days has to keep pace with the population increase and increased tourism.

It rained pretty relentlessly in town so we didn't go up the gondola and get that classic view of Queenstown fronting Lake Wakatipu fronting the Remarkables.

The next day, we left Queenstown and headed to Fox Glacier through the Haast Pass Highway cutting through Mt Aspiring National Park. We revisited Fantail Falls and Thunder Creek Falls. However, the wall of waterfalls tumbling down the mountains weren't seen this time around because the clouds were hanging low and thus obscuring our views of them.

The fog turned into rain when we got right onto the West Coast. So we didn't bother stopping at Haast Bay nor at Knights Point. When we got to Fox Glacier, we spent some time checking out the glacier itself which was something we hadn't seen in the past. The walk to the glacier seemed shorter than we remembered it for Franz Josef Glacier, but the glacier was no less spectacular. We also got to see some of the waterfalls coming down both sides of the valley. I made a return visit to the glacier later in the evening when the weather had improved significantly. However, even despite the better weather towards the end of the day, the mountains of the Southern Alps were still blocked by clouds so we didn't go for a walk around Lake Matheson.

Today, we went to Franz Josef Glacier, but not before stealing a few looks at Mt Cook as the clouds briefly parted just enough for us to see it from our motel before the clouds obscured it again. Back at Franz, we noticed the walk was much easier and more popular than before, but it was also disconcerting to see how much the glacier had retreated in five years. At the end of the day, we finally decided to walk around Lake Matheson in the hopes of getting that postcard view of Mt Tasman reflected in the lake, but the clouds refused to cooperate and reveal the snowy mountain when we were on the other side of the lake.

I guess that's how it is sometimes when sights like these are weather dependent. And this is especially true of New Zealand's notoriously rainy West Coast...

No comments: