Wellington to Fox Glacier
Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
163Trip End May 02, 2013
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The highway leading out of Picton was steep and curvy, which made Sylvia slightly nauseous while Jason relished the opportunity to hug the corners and accelerate through the apices. The views of the surrounding sounds were stunning. Descending into Nelson we were charmed by the town and sought out the source of the One Ring. Jens Hansen was handpicked to create the most important prop for The Lord of the Rings movies based on his reputation for producing fine jewelry. Inside the tiny shop a friendly staffer showed us the first prototype along with a selection of other rings from the trilogy, including Sauron's huge ring
A short drive further and we were in Richmond, hunting for Harrington's Brewers, creators of the stout ale quaffed in the movies. After asking several passersby we came up empty and moved on. We entered another wine region that also bore a multitude of other familiar fruits including apples, pears and kiwis. Having already enjoyed a 2.5 kg bag of braeburns over the previous few days, we breezed by an honour payment system fruit stand and bought a bag of juicy d'estivale apples.
Our next stop was an informative iSite travel information centre. We loaded up on more maps and info and booked a kayak for the following day. They also referred us to Old MacDonald's Farm, a real farm setting with quiet camping areas where we promptly set up the tent and cooked chili for dinner. We retired early in preparation for high adventure on Tasman Bay.
Our kayaking day began with a safety review under cloudy skies, followed by a minivan ride to the beach. Just before 11:00 we paddled off shore and headed north into Abel Tasman National Park, against the current
We took our first lunch break on Coquille Bay, savouring salami, edam and avocado sandwiches. Back in the boat the sun burst forth and the sea turned turquoise. We paddled hard and perpendicular to set foot on Observation Beach, another secluded beach that was ideal for our second lunch. At low tide there were hundreds of green mussels and purple razor clams visible, attached to the rocks. Oh how we would have loved to cook some of those up for dinner. With the aid of the wind and current the journey home was much swifter than the paddle out. Our bodies tired so we took frequent breaks and glided along the sun-enhanced colourful water.
For dinner we patronized The Fat Tui, a truck converted into a takeaway joint serving up big burgers and fish and chips. We ordered up a tasty 'Ewe Beaut' and fish and chips, chasing it all down with a beer from the car. They pumped out chilled tunes and with candles on the picnic tables out front the vibe was cool, along with the air.
The next day we took an aqua-taxi further up the coast to Bark Bay and hiked 25 km back to Marahau in seven hours
With a long drive ahead of us we rose early, breakfasted and packed up camp. The leaves on the maple tree close by had turned a brilliant red and Jason attached one to the rear wiper blade.
We made the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks our lunch stop and were impressed by the scenery and setup. These tall towers rise sharply from the sea and are made of thin layers of sediment deposited on the ocean floor millions of years ago, slowly eroded by wind and water into their current forms. We continued southward to Franz Josef Glacier.
Unfortunately, the terminal face was melting and partially caved in in January so the only option was an expensive helicopter ride further up the glacier followed by a hike on the ice. We decided to shop around and found half day hike openings for Fox Glacier instead. We checked into a room with four beds at a lovely holiday park just outside the tiny town of Fox Glacier
After a good night's rest we made our way over to the tour operator and got a briefing plus some essential gear. The walk up to the glacier was warm and rocky with sheer cliffs lining both sides of the crystal river valley. As soon as we donned our loaned crampons over borrowed boots and took our first steps onto the glacier the temperature dropped dramatically, necessitating the addition of warmer clothing. We stomped over the ice to maintain traction and passed crystal clear blue ice pools created by water flowing over and through the glacier. The same water carved tubes and holes large enough for us to pass through, making for some amazing photos.