Remember how a travel-bug once embarked on his journey to New Zealand? I had been noting his discovery of the beguiling land here along with his heart-winning photographs from Oceania’s darling.
After conquering North Island, Firoze’s journey continued to the South Island, and that’s when he discovered why he should have never stepped foot on this country. The oozing beauty of the land and its captivating ambience makes New Zealand a dangerous place for tourists, since it will never let you leave and go back home! You come here and you realise life will never be the same again. Here are some proof:
For a wandering soul, the road is always the best way to explore, as one can take in as much as possible spending the maximum time among all the prettiness.
“The best way to see South Island is by car. However there are also tour buses to all the major attractions,” says Firoze. If you are comfortable with driving, rent a car and set out, or in case you want to simply sit back and soak in the glamour of the country, take the tour buses.
He flew to Queenstown from Auckland, and then immediately drove to the small town Franz Joseph. It is the staging point from where one can go on an expedition to see the world famous Franz Joseph Glacier, along with the Fox Glacier, and the Tasman Glacier.
“The drive from Queenstown to Franz Jospeh is enchanting, one of the most beautiful drives in the world, with the road following what seems to be one beautiful lake after another,” exclaimed an awestruck Firoze.
There are only two lakes along the way – Lake Hawea, and Lake Wanaka, and both are huge. While Lake Wanaka is the source of the country’s largest river, the Clutha, Lake Hawea feeds into the Hawea River, which joins the former at Albert Town. As the road twists and turns on its way it seems as though one is viewing different lakes.
“The scenery along the way is endlessly breathtaking. Once you come upon a beautiful scenic spot and pause to marvel at its beauty; but then as the road rounds a bend you come upon a spot that is even more beautiful! And so it goes on, until your mind gives in and just lets this magnificent land simply soak you in its wonderment,” expressed Firoze.
A place of intense beauty and mountainous extremes, Lake Hawea is the outdoor adventurers’ paradise, with magnificent views of the surrounding peaks. A place of vivid beauty, mountainous extremes and legendary fishing spots, this lake is a great place to boat, swim, kite surf, kayak, ride, walk or just laze about on the beach.
Leaving the lakes and mountains behind, the road then follows the coast and prepares one to witness more wondrous views along the coastline. Therefore, it can undoubtedly be titled one of the finest drives in the world. Spending the night in Franz Joseph, Firoze set out the next day to the Glaciers. There are two ways to see the glacier — by hiking up to the Glaciers or by Helicopter, both come with their pros and cons.
Our traveller friend chose to fly to the Glaciers. As expected, it is an expensive choice, but when you see the photographs from his flight, you can as well swoon over the snow-capped peaks. Firoze describes it as “one of the best values you will ever get for your money”.
After gaping at the view underneath from the helicopter, the flyers landed on a snow plateau high up in the mountains right in front of the magnificent Mt Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. Mt Cook, also known as Aoraki is not only a famous tourist destination, but also a challenge for mountain climbers. The three summits of the Mt Cook lie slightly southeast of the main divide of the Southern Alps: Tasman Glacier to the east and the Hooker Glacier to the southwest. If you are an adventure seeker, a hike up the Glaciers is a definite ‘to-do’.
Franz Josef Glacier area has some of the most spectacular scenery in New Zealand. When you stand close to the foot of these glaciers, their sheer enormity is very humbling. The small but lively Franz Josef town, named after the glacier, is surrounded by lush rainforest with the high snow-capped Alps above — quitye a rare sight.
Although the smallest of the 3 glaciers, Franz Jospeh is the most popular one because of its jaw-dropping natural beauty. Just 6kms from the centre of Franz Josef town, the glacier plunges hundreds of meters from the tops of the Southern NZ Alps into the rain forest close to sea level. This provides a very rare opportunity to experience a dynamic glacier in a temperate environment, within easy driving and walking distance from a town. The glacier is 12km long and the ice is over 300 meters deep!
The temperate climate at this low altitude makes these glaciers among the most convenient ones to visit in the world. This ice slides down hill to the river valley below, where it is still 300 metres thick. The movement is lubricated by ice that melts under pressure between the glacier and the steep valley floor. This effect, combined with the high snowfall feeding the top of the glacier, indicates that the Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers flow around ten times faster than most other glaciers.
“We spent 20 mins there soaking in the stunning views of the NZ Alps, and of the deep valleys. The helicopter ride back was equally thrilling, going thru valleys and over the mountain tops. These are sights you will cherish for the rest of your life,” smiles Firoze recalling his ride.
From Franz Joseph, he continued his journey of discovering South Island by driving to the pretty town of Wanaka. (to be continued in the next post). You can check out the rest of his travel stories here.
(Copyright on all photographs held by Firoze Mistry)