Monday, July 11, 2011

New Zealand: Part III

Time for part 3 of my trip report. Click on part 1 and part 2 to read about earlier parts of our trip to New Zealand.

Last post left off in the central-east region of the North Island, Hawke's Bay. We departed the Hawke's Bay area early in the morning to catch the Interisland Ferry to the South Island. It was cheaper to book the ferry through our car rental company and there are many ways to get a reduced price, so I'd suggest looking around for discounts rather than booking for full price.

We were a bit panicked as we neared Wellington, knowing that we had a good 30 minutes of driving to get to the ferry when we were supposed to be there in 10 minutes in order to be one hour in advance, as instructed. Picture me freaking out as we're heading through the foggy mountains you must pass to head south to Wellington.

Of course, in true New Zealander style, the gate agent you must pass in order to load the boat didn't seem at all phased by our tardiness.

After the ferry, it was a quick drive to our hostel, Sequoia Lodge in Picton. Good thing too because it was getting dark and their free chocolate pudding with ice cream should not be missed.

If I had to make any modifications to our itinerary (other than extend it all together), I would change this next part of the trip. After a full day of travel to Picton (keep in mind that we were travelling in the fall and it gets dark around 5:30-6:00pm), we left early the next day for Nelson (2.5 hour drive). We dropped off our stuff at the next hostel, Tasman Bay Backpackers (a sister hostel to Sequoia Lodge) and drove on to Marahou, next to Abel Tasman, a well-known national park.

People often go to Abel Tasman to canoe, hike or camp (among other activities). Our main goal was to go canoeing. But, by the time we got to Marahou, our options were pretty limited since companies renting canoes also require a 1 hour safety lesson. So, we were limited to a short hike and lengthy boat ride.

This is the Split Apple Rock, the most photographed site in Abel Tasman.

What we should have done was spend as least 2 nights in Nelson, so that we could get to Marahou early in the morning to take advantage of the canoe + hiking options available. Or, if you have the equipment, camping would be nice too.

All in all, I thought Abel Tasman was nice, but, quite similar in appearance to what you'd find in Canada.

The next day was another travel day (about 7 hours to Franz Josef). We stopped in Hokitika for meat pie and to look at jade. Don't quote me on this, but I think the restaurant was called Clocktower Cafe. R got a venison pie and I got beef.

After a brief stop, we continued on to Franz Josef, located in the central-west part of the island. This area is known for glaciers -- there are two: Franz Josef Glacier and Fox Glacier.

Both Franz Josef and the nearby (30 minute drive) Fox are fairly similar and we debated which one is better. Franz Josef is steeper and probably the more crowded of the two. I think our decision came down to accommodation. The YHA in Franz Josef seemed nice and had space.

Next decision (just ask Giz how torturous it can be to wait for R or I to make a decision)... how we were going to see the glacier? Half day hike, full day hike, helihike, longer helicopter tour? (Did I mention that my new favourite expression is : "First-world problem")

We decided to take a Helihike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides. This entails a helicopter ride up the glacier followed by a hike around the glacier.

The pictures just don't do it justice. Despite large amounts of rain (2-3 metres/ year) being common to this region, we had beautiful weather for our hike.

After a quick lesson about how to put on clampons, we spent the next couple of hours walking around, being careful to follow in the footsteps of our guide.

Here is the guide, soaking wet, after proving that he could squeeze through a crevasse (the other guide had to come and help pull him out). Apparently, as long as you don't freak out, exhale to reduce your chest circumference and let your body heat melt the ice, you can get through tight holes in the ice. Yeah...I'll take his word for it.

Here's some video footage of our helihike:

Here is a map of the route:

View Larger Map


Les rêves d'une boulangère (Brittany) said...

What a pretty looking place! I've never visited NZ but live close to it so I probably will one day. I love the natural and fresh look. Glad you enjoyed yourself

That Girl said...

I love your New Zealand posts!

kat said...

Such beautiful country but I know what you mean about looking like Canada. So much of Sweden looked like northern Minnesota. Your photos made me realize I definitely need to book a glacier hike in Alaska this fall.