Ross was our last WWOOF position on the West Coast. There aren’t many WWOOF hosts south from the small gold town, so Eamonn and I decided we would tour and camp the rest of the West Coast and then move south and inland towards the Otago/ Southland regions of New Zealand.
If you look at a map, there isn’t too much south of Ross, the West Coast is rather sparse in general (New Zealand is in fact!). The only towns or points of interest are Franz Josef and Fox Glacier. Franz Josef is a tiny alpine village that’s entire tourism is based off the Franz Josef Glacier and helicopter tours over it. It wasn’t a very exciting place and honestly reminded us a bit too much of Hanmer Springs, so we stopped for coffee and a tasty donut and were on our way.
Fox Glacier is another tiny town whose whole point is its proximity to the Fox Glacier. This Glacier though is much more accessible than the other one in Franz Josef. It is a short drive and then a pleasant walk (about an hour, maybe 40 minutes) to the glacier viewing area. We did this. Wow. Glaciers are incredible! We were fairly far away for safety reasons, but the glacier was huge walls of ice and just loomed over us. It was amazing and I am so glad to have been able to see a glacier before they are all gone!
We breezed fairly quickly through the two glacier towns and made it to our fairly un exciting and rather miserable camp site on a lake. It rained the whole night and the ground was extra hard (there seemed to be a layer of gravel under a thin veneer of grass). We were very happy to get up and leave (in the rain) the next morning.
Our sunrise was at a lookout called Knights Point. It was a cloudy sunrise, but it was beautiful none the less. The waves were crashing on the cliffs below us and the fantail birds were flitting about our heads. We ate a bit of breakfast here and then hopped back in the car for a short drive to another recommended stopping place, Ship’s Creek. It was a beach at the mouth of a small creek. The glacier villages had been full of pines and very alpine, but here we were back to jungle, fern trees and a sense of the prehistoric. Ship’s Creek got it’s name, and became a point of New Zealand interest, because a piece of an old ship wreck was found up the waterway. For a long time the wreckage was unidentifiable, until someone had the thought that it might be a wreckage from off the coast of Australia.
The wreckage had been carried by ocean currents from a ship that had found its end in 18fuf-huf off the coast of Victoria, Australia, over 1000 miles away from where bits of the wreckage were found! Just a small reminder of the power of the ocean.
We wanted to reach Wanaka by the end of the day, so we headed to the pointless place of Haast. Nothing there. Terrible little town. Not even a town. We ended up being stuck for a bit over an hour because of a road blockage between Haast and Wanaka, between which there is really and truly nothing.
Oh, but once we were allowed to start the drive, it was spectacular! We drove through the Mount Aspiring National Park. Every turn and every look out the window was some of the most scenic views of New Zealand so far. We stopped and did a few hikes to stretch our legs, but mostly we gawked out the window and made our way to Wanaka.
Wanaka is again a little tourist village, but it is nestled on the shores of a crystal blue lake between mountains. Very beautiful. Reminiscent of parts of Colorado. It was cold. We nearly froze our first night camping. It felt like autumn there, unlike the West Coast that still felt like summer.
We hiked and enjoyed the pleasures of town, beer and non campsite food. I forced Eamonn to drive with me to some Lord Of the Rings film locations.I didn’t have many expectations, but they were let down. The places indicated on our maps were fairly unrecognizable parts of the film, but easy to imagine the action that was supposed to have taken place there. One sight was just an area of scrub brush and craggy rocks where the fellowship was wandering after they left the comforts of Rivendell. Couldn’t find anything specific (didn’t look that hard), but it wasn’t hard to imagine.
When at our campsite we spent time catching up on reading and calling WWOOF hosts to try and set up our next stay. After many failed attempts, we were set for five days with a lady in Queenstown! In another day we were off to Queenstown!