Today was day one of a two-day road trip between Queenstown and Golden Bay, up the west coast of New Zealand. It was the shorter of the two days…tomorrow will be a long one!
The drive showed as 4 hours on our GPS. With a few reasonable stops, we took 6.5 hours. I think the time depends heavily on how many slow camper vans you end up following. We felt as though we were moving along reasonably well all day, but it did take longer than expected. Like I said, tomorrow will be long!
We’d heard the trip would be beautiful and sparsely populated. It was definitely both. What surprised us was the variety. We drove beside lakes, rivers and the ocean. We saw farms, mountains, glaciers, beaches and rainforest. We had bright sunshine, clouds, fog and rain. Long stretches of nothing but wilderness — and well-marked walking tracks, and public toilets. Very occasional gas stations. Hairpin turns with a 100km/hour speed limit.
We stopped twice along the way: in Wanaka and the Blue Pools. Plus once for toilets and once for gas in Haast. Wanaka was a pretty, “happening” town — I was happy to find my first NZ yarn shop. We stopped at Puzzling World to browse the shop and play with a few brainteasers but decided against the $77 entry fee and carried on.
The Blue Pools included a 15-minute lovely forested walk to gorgeous glacial pools. We were entertained to watch a couple jump off the bridge into the frigid water below. And the stacked stone ‘sculptures’ made out of the river rocks were gorgeous. Beware of the bugs (sand flies?) down by the water though — our picnic was cut short as were being eaten more than we were eating!
Upon our arrival in Fox Glacier, the woman at our hotel told me we’d travelled from a place that gets 900mm of rain a year to one that gets 5m. We were startled to see that Fox Glacier is located in a rainforest. She said that only Canadians and Scandanavians tend to appreciate how rare that is.
Fox Glacier is the first of two glacier towns in this area. We’re told it has 350 permanent residents, and 7 students at the local public school. At age 13, kids get sent to boarding school on the east coast, courtesy of the NZ government. We’d read about a couple of restaurants, and had pre-booked a hotel, so we knew we’d have the basics covered.
There are restaurants. And are they ever expensive! Burgers are $23, pizzas $29. Ouch.
Did I mention that tomorrow will be [twice as] long?