Wednesday, 30 November 2016

New Zealand SI (part 5): Franz Josef Glacier, Hokitika Gorge and Castle Hill

In my last post, we went for a Milford Sound one day tour, drove to Queenstown and stop over for a night before proceeding to our next destination, Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier.

According to Googlemaps, it will take 4.5 hours to drive from Queenstown to our accommodation at Franz Josef Glacier town, and the time taken to drive from Fox to Franz Josef Glacier was half an hour. So our original plan was to explore Fox Glacier first as it was along the way. Then drive to Franz Josef Glacier to check in to our accommodation. But we actually took a lot more time because the drive from Queenstown to Franz Josef was simply amazing and we had to stop at many scenic points. In the end, we didn't have enough time and had to give Fox Glacier a miss. So a tip will be to cater more time for the drive. Although it only took half an hour to drive from Fox Glacier to Franz Josef Glacier, the route was very steep with lots of bends.

Below are some of the photos we took along the drive.

Lake Hawea Lookout Point

Lake Wanaka

Blue Pool (30 mins walk return from car park) 

Thunder Creek Fall (5 mins walk to the waterfall from the car park)

Roaring Billy (25 mins return walk from the car park)

Haast Pass

West Coast

Bruce Bay

Finally we reached Franz Josef Glacier and checked in to our accommodation, Franz Josef Montrose.

Complimentary soup from Franz Josef Montrose served at 8pm in the kitchen
Dinner was at Alice May, according to Tripadvisor, it was no. 1 in Franz Josef and they were really good!

Pork with apple sauce

Beef Cheek in red wine sauce
Franz Josef Glacier 
The track to Franz Josef Glacier to and fro took 1.5 hours. It was raining when we were there so we again had to brave the rain through the track. But this time round, the condition was better than Hooker Valley Track as there wasn't any strong winds, just some rain. So it was much more manageable. We were told that as Franz Josef Glacier's situated within the rainforest, this area rained most of the time. 

While walking half way, we saw some rocks rolling down the slopes! As the rocks rolled down, there's roaring sound. I initially thought some helicopter flew past, that's until I saw the rocks rolling down.

An ice cave we saw along the way

That's Franz Josef Glacier up there. It has retreated quite a lot. Sad :(

Panoramic shot of the surrounding half way through the track

Hokitika Gorge
After Franz Josef Glacier, we drove for about 2.5 hours to Hokitika Gorge. I love turquoise waters and Hokitika Gorge never failed me.

We had our dinner at Fat Pipi Pizza in Hokitika Town. The pizza was superb! We ordered a large half half pizza, Mariner (Fish, shrimp, mussel, smoked salmon, onion) and Portifino (shrimp, mushroom, bacon, garlic).

The Country Cottage
We have booked The Country Cottage for the night's stay, it's about 15 mins drive away from Hokitika Town. We loved this cottage a lot and the host was super friendly and nice! They live just next door. It was clean and cosy with a fire place! It was situated in the outskirts, very peaceful, quiet and serene. We could see stars at night as there's little light pollution here. We really love love love this cottage and highly recommend this! My favourite accommodation throughout my whole NZ trip.
The Country Cottage can be booked through this website!

We also encountered the first earthquake of our life here, in The Country Cottage that night. On 14 Nov 2016 at 1202am. The cottage shook a little, could see the furniture shaking and our things on the table and water moving. I was shocked and hubby told me that it was earthquake. We were lucky that it stopped after about half a minute. We felt a few smaller after shocks after that. We immediately checked the news and realised that a magnitude 7.5 earthquake just hit Kaikoura area and the surrounding, including Wellington were badly hit.

After that we kept our eyes on the news for earthquake very closely and were shocked that there were a few hundreds of after shocks within a day. We still felt very very small tremors as and when. We will be driving back to Christchurch the next day and were relieved that Christchurch was not affected by the earthquake.

On the last day, we drove back to Christchurch, passing by Arthur's Pass. It was so foggy at Arthur's Pass that visibility was low. We drove through Arthur's Pass and stopped by Castle Hill for a short walk before arriving at Christchurch.

Castle Hill

We spent the last night in Christchurch to catch our next morning's flight. Sob sob. A vacation that ended too soon.

New Zealand SI (Part 4): Milford Sound one day tour

We booked a one day Milford Sound tour with Jucy from bookme website at a discounted price, starting of from Te Anau. The bus picked us up from our Te Anau accommodation, Shakespear House Bed and Breakfast at 815am. The group was small, only 7 of us.

One thing to note is that along the road to Milford Sound and at Milford Sound and on the cruise, our phone has no reception at all even though we bought the NZ SIM card from Spark.

The guide stopped at many points along the drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound for us to take photos.

The Mirror Lake

Can you see the sign Mirror Lake purposely placed as the mirror image?

Back in the bus, I took some photos too.

After a while, the bus stopped and we were captivated by the beautiful scenery around us.

We were booked for the 1115am cruise. Hence, the guide left a few scenic points for the return journey. We arrived at Milford Sound at 11am. The guide told us that at 1pm, it would be very crowded as the tours from Queenstown would have arrived so we avoided the crowd :)

The guide gave each of us a cruise ticket and a voucher to redeem a pita on the cruise. There were many small small flies, not sure if those were sandflies, at the deck while we were waiting to board the cruise and also at the top level of the cruise. But the flies disperse when the cruise start moving. The winds were too strong for the flies to handle. Haha. We were not bitten by these small small flies even though we did not apply insect repellent. I'm not sure if these were the legendary notorious sandflies or we were just lucky that they did not bite us. Lol.

The cruise starts!

Bowen Falls

Wind was too strong. Hide behind the pillar haha

Cutie seal!

We were so close that the water hit us! Shiok! Haha
Close up with the waterfall!

Our cruise ended at 1pm and we boarded the bus for our journey back to Te Anau and some stops at the scenic places.

The Chasm
It's a 20 mins return journey to walk to the Chasm from the car park. It a nice short walk with lots of small small flies which I dunno if they were sandflies.

At the carpark of Chasm, we saw many Kea too!

On the return journey, just after Homer Tunnel. The guide stopped for about 20 mins for us to take photos and walked to the snow patches to act as if we were on glacier hahaha.

Lake Gunn

Our guide was an expert in skipping stones!

We arrived back at Te Anau at 4pm and that ended our one day Milford Sound Tour!

There's another less known but bigger one called the Doubtful Sound. It's more inaccessible as compared to Milford Sound. It could only reached via helicopter or overnight cruise. If you have the time, you might wanna check it out!

We slowly made our way back to Queenstown, stopover for a night, and set off to Franz Josef Glacier!

Below are some shots we took on our way back to Queenstown! Enjoy! And stay tune for the last part, part 5 Franz Josef Glacier, Hokitika Gorge and Castle Hill!