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Route:

The Divide –> Routeburn Track –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> Lake Howden –> Earland Falls –>  Routeburn Track –> The Divide

Total Distance:

~ 10 km (6.2 miles)

Average Walk Time:

~ 7.5 – 8 hours (round trip)

(with plenty of time to take great shots, lunch & a quick swim under the waterfall)

Difficulty:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there?

Highlights and Views

TIPS?!

INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY

The Routeburn Track is the ultimate alpine adventure that links Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park in the South West of South Island New Zealand. This tracks would take you through some unbelievable ice-carved valleys that stretched beyond your wildest peripheral vision. With majestic snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and meadows, it is no wonder this track is so popular amongst locals and tourists!

With Milford Sound also located nearby this track, it is no surprise that the Te Anau vicinity provides the most beautiful, serene scenes in trekking. And if you are strapped for time or do not want such a long trekking expedition, then refer to the ‘TIPS?!’ section in this article for alternative  routes you could consider! The thing I love about trekking is that it can suit anyone and everyone of varied fitness- AS LONG AS YOU HAVE THE PASSION, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! 😀


 

How to get there?

Though Te Anau township is the closest to Routeburn Track, the drive was still quite a far bit long from our accommodation at Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau near the town centre. According to Google Map, a straightforward driving route on the main Te Anau-Milford Highway 94 would basically take you to the start of Routeburn Track in approximately 1 hr 9 mins (slightly shorter than the drive to Lake Marian). However, we took slightly longer as we had respites a.k.a taking photos! Haha! New Zealand is just so beautiful, everywhere is just a perfect picturesque sight you know. WE JUST HAD TO STOP TO SNAP! 😀

Turn right upon seeing the small brown signage ‘The Divide’. Routeburn Track carpark is just there.

 

Highlights and Views

On Routeburn Track

Considering the estimated time needed to complete the entire trekking route, I remember we woke up relatively early for this trekking experience. And oh boy, was this all worth every minute awake. By the time we got to The Divide it was about 8-ish am, the morning sun had already peaked out.

We started on our trek passed the initial canopy of forested area and soon the route started to open up to a whole new world- literally. It was at that point that it hit me like the shafts of sunlight raying down. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.

And yes, I have seen many mountainous sight when in New Zealand and they all put me in great awe, but this was just inexplicably different. Accompanied by the absolute fresh crisp morning breeze and the mountains in the great distance beyond the valleys, I was really just speechless. It was perfect.

Up the Key Summit Trail

You will reach an intersection either heading towards the Key Summit or Lake Howden. We decided to first head for the Summit- considering this was the highlight; and just in case the perfect weather decides to go south etc.

The climb up the Summit through the alpine was pretty glorious as well. The view of the Hollyford valley was pretty magnificent from way up!

At the Summit

After trekking approximately 2 hours (from The Divide) with a few respites of STOP-AND-SNAP, when we finally arrived at the Summit!

The view of the mini pond with the snow-capped mountain as backdrop was all I longed to see on the Routeburn Track. And it was exactly how I pictured it. Pristine pond surrounded by damped mosses, it was a view that will remain etched in my mind.

It was quite a tranquil experience. Though, the Routeburn track is a popular route to most people in the Te Anau region, it was surprising that there were not many fellow trekkers hanging around the ‘final destination’. Where could they all be, I wonder?

Because we hadn’t really eaten breakfast, we had our first meal of the day ON A (FREAKING) MOUNTAIN! How awesome was that! A meal with a priceless view. It was such a bliss to just sit on a boulder, with the sun shining down, holding on to a cookie, munching and having a peripheral view of the Darran Mountains.

To be honest, I will do anything to go back and relive the moment with simplicity at its best! #travelmemories

Back on Routeburn Track en route to Lake Howden

We ate, took tons of photos, and told each other how we wished the moment never past. It was our longest rest we had (for about 1 hr 45 mins). Well… … Time flies when you are being in the moment and embracing the view, no?

Then it was time (close to noon) to get up on our arses and back on the Routeburn Track heading towards Lake Howden and then to Earland Falls!

When we arrived at the Howden Hut, which is next to Lake Howden, it was about an hour past noon. Howden Hut is a camping facility for campers who do overnight treks. I understand from fellow trekkers along the way that some had travelled from the Queenstown and were making their way to Te Anau.

So basically they trekked from Mount Aspiring National Park to Fiordland National Park. We witnessed a father and young son, probably 12 – 13 years old, on this very long journey. Kudos to the dynamic father and son duo! Alas, I am not that adventurous yet to try an overnight trekking expedition! Haha! Maybe one day… …

Earland Falls

About an hour trek from Lake Howden, we arrived at the almighty Earland Falls! To be honest, when we were at Lake Howden, we were contemplating if we should give Earland Falls a miss. We were considering the amount of daylight we had left, and if we could make it back to the carpark before dark.

But being already in the middle of nowhere surrounded by forest and lake, we decided we shouldn’t leave the place without finishing what we started off. And I am very glad I have a travel partner who wouldn’t quit on me. She was alright with not seeing Earland Falls, but knowing me well enough (that I wanted to carry on), she pressed on with me. So thanks girl!

We wasted no time to dilly-dally, and scurried through the forest gingerly on uneven route underfoot!

I usually espied waterfalls from a great distance. But, this time, the 174 metres Earland waterfall was the closest I had gotten to a waterfall! It was so majestic! It was literally right in front of us. We could feel the mist! We could totally go in for a swim beneath the falls and feel its wrath as the waters spattered!

The crystal clear cold waters was just so tempting for us to soak ourselves in after a long and hard’s trek. We left Earland Falls, at about 3.40 pm, and made it back before dark! We were totally exhausted after that! Haha! 😀 But it was extremely worth it! I was so glad we did not give a miss to Earland Falls. In hindsight, it was definitely worth the extra distance trekking.


 

TIPS?!

Alternative Trekking Routes (important read)

When planning for this track, I was pretty ambitious. Because I did not want to do an overnight trek, but still would like to cover key sights, I had this personal route initially mapped out as shown below.

The Divide –> Routeburn Track (first bypass Key Summit Lookout Trail) –> Lake Howden –> Earland Falls Lake Howden –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> The Divide

However, when we arrived at the junction to make a decision to bypass the Key Summit and head to Lake Howden and Earland Falls first, we decided it was best to go to the Summit first instead (just in case we were strapped for time, and also considering weather changes).

And were we so glad we made this decision to go to the Summit first. Firstly, the view at the Summit was with obvious reasons exquisite! I am not saying Lake Howden and Earland Falls are not at all worth the trip- they are. But in all honestly, I will pick the view at the Summit any day over the rest.

However, if you are confident that time is not of the essence, then I guess which route you take doesn’t really matter?

If you are not looking at such a long trekking experience, then forget about Lake Howden and the Earland Falls. Just take a journey up the Summit. It would be a view worth it! This route would take about 4 hours return trip.

The Divide –> Routeburn Track –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> The Divide

Yes, I know the signage stated 3 hours return trip, but to be honest guys, of all our walks in New Zealand, never had we actually completed our treks (excluding photography and respites) based on the timings on the board. Never. So a tip is to add 1 – 1.5 hours to your planning?

Start Early!

We woke up at 4.30 at the crack of dawn. We must be crazy you say, but trust me it will be all worth it when you are 919 metres above sea level. Also, if you are getting on the long trekking route to visit Earland Falls, you would need those extra time of daylight!

Lunch + Swim wear

Because it was an entire day’s out in the forest, packed lunch of simple sandwich, cookies and fruits are much needed! Not to mention, your energy drink! You will need it!

We did not have our swim gear with us, so we did not have a go in the waterfalls. We see many trekkers very much prepared, and after a long trek, they all went in for a nice cool off in the waters! So if you wish to, bring your swim wears!

Safety first

I reckon going on any walks in New Zealand would be safer during Summer. The Great Walks season is during end October to end April. For detailed information about the Routeburn Track walk do take time to look at the brochure.

 

INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY

So last year I partnered with GPSMyCity to convert my travel article “Sights & Sounds: Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai” on the TravelWhenever site, to a GPSMyCity travel article app that can be viewed offline! For details on that, click here.

This year, GPSMyCity announced plans to introduce subscription to their travel article apps. The subscription option is now available on iTunes, with Google Play due to follow suit shortly (due to technical reasons). Effectively, GPSMyCity app users can now purchase annual subscription at US$12.99/year with full access to all travel articles for 900+ cities worldwide OR at US$18.99/year with full access to all our walking tours + travel articles covering 1,000+ cities.

I have 10 free one-year subscriptions (worth US$18.99 each) to be given away. To enter this international giveaway, there’s only one rule: Simply place a comment on this article you are reading now regarding your planned/planning travel destinations for 2018!

It would be nice if you could follow me on Instagram: @travelwhenever as well! 😀

I am most interested to know where avid travel lovers are heading this year, ya?! The giveaway entry period will last for 2 weeks from the date that this article is published.

So let’s believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world to see and give back! Remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

Route: Parking Lot –> Swing Bridge –> Series of Mini Waterfalls –> Elevated Track –> Lake Marian –> And Back
Total Distance: 2.4 km (1.5 miles)
Average Walk Time:

~ 4 hours or slightly less

(with plenty of time to take great shots, light snacking & a quick swim)

Seasonal Restrictions: Do not walk around the edge of the lake during the snow/avalanche season (winter and spring)
Difficulty: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂
Scenery: 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there? 

Highlights and Views 

TIPS? 

Well, I reckoned New Zealand needs no prelude whatsoever. Everything about it just never stops to inspire me in a frivolous way. And it was probably the first time I jaunted through trails and treks every other day for a month until my feet got sore and blistered. I would imagine this to be otherwise for anyone else. So yes, a weakling I was?

But it was all worth every drop of sweat to climb. It was all worth every minor or major slipups along the way. And it was all definitely worth (at times) sacrificing sleep for the enthralling views that time sleeping will never give. Lake Marian is imperatively impeccable, and I would recommend this trek to anyone, that is without a doubt!

The closest town to Lake Marian would be Te Anau. It is also the closest town to the famous Milford Sound attraction in the South Island of New Zealand. Te Anau is a quiet, humble little town, with quite a selection of restaurants and smaller eateries. A nice place to be away from the buzz of city life, and still be able to enjoy amenities of excellent food, accommodation and at the same time satisfying those basic grocery needs.

 

How to get there?

Though Te Anau township is the closest to Lake Marian, the drive was still quite a far bit long from our accommodation at Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau near the town centre. A straightforward driving route on the main Te Anau-Milford Highway 94 would basically take you there in approximately 1 hr 20 mins.

Just remember to make a turn right soon after Pop’s View lookout, onto Hollyford Track when you see the signage ‘Lower Hollyford’, otherwise, you would be on your merry way to Milford Sound, which is also not a bad option. Haha!

Drive down about 1 km on the unsealed gravelled Hollyford Track a.k.a Hollyford Road and you would reach the Lake Marian carpark!

 

Highlights and Views

1. Swing Bridge

The start of the trek to Lake Marian requires the crossing of the swing bridge which hovered above the Hollyford River (Whakatapu Ka Tuku). The river was in its clear refreshing blue and the sounds of the waters crashing against the rocks as it rushed down with gravity was invigoratingly welcoming! What an excellent way to start a morning! 😀

I recalled I was so tempted to go down to douse my hands in the refreshing and presumably cold waters. But as I made my way down gingerly across large rocks and boulders to the edge of the river and I squatted down, I realised my hands were too short to reach into the waters. Haha! Yup, woes of having short hands.

Looking to both of my sides along the river, it seemed very unlikely I could reach down into the waters unless I sat down on the rocks or something like that. Hence, I decided to give it a miss and head back up, for the waters at Lake Marian would definitely be as refreshing too right? And definitely easier to reach in…

2. Series of Mini Waterfalls

About a short 10 minute stroll on the boardwalk past the swing bridge was the next highlight of the Lake Marian trek: the exhilarating rush of the waterfalls. It was quite thunderously deafening when we walked deeper into the track; closer to the top of the waterfall. With the morning sun beaming all so strongly, the waters that flowed down glistened crystal white. Which really was not a bad sight for a morning!

There were some people who visited this place just for the mini waterfalls. Because it was a relatively easy paved short walk, some would decide to have a nice easy morning stroll and would give the slightly more advance tramping track a miss. That could be an option, but if you are more able-bodied, then continue on the elevated track to Lake Marian ‘cause the reward at the end is just mind-blowing! Period!

3. Elevated Track (through the forest)

After the end of the series of mini waterfalls, where the initial road underfoot was still well-paved and easy to walk on, came the start of the elevated tracks to Lake Marian! Which by then, consists of gravel roads, steep inclined and at times, wet and muddy pathways. From here on, it was approximately 1.5 hours to the beautiful Lake Marian as stated on the signage.

So into the native forest we ascended, starting with steady inclines up on uneven rocky road. It was still relatively manageable at the start, with very obvious reasons. It was enjoyable and exciting to wander through the amazing forest. Even the sweat and the panting from climbing up against gravity were all part of the package of adventure! Totally enrapturing!

But the climb soon became a little relentless as time passed. However, thinking about it now just made me missed manoeuvring through the dense forest like some explorer on a mission; a mission to find the hidden gem of a lake that is! Haha! 😀

After trotting through the rocky, and at times narrow paths, feeling all sweltering, we arrived to an area of openness. There weren’t any shelter from the sun by the trees like before, and if one would just have a quick glance at the entire peripheral view on its own without being meticulous in the details, one would totally missed out the orange beacon (which we all know is there for the very reason to guide trekkers in the right direction)!

And we decided, of all places, to take respite in an unshaded open piece of area surrounded by trees and huge logs. Hhhmmm… And the idea of respite is to dance silly as if the trees were the compelled audiences there to stay. Haha… You can see the embarrassing footage in the video linked below.

Click for Lake Marian video!

Following the orange beacon prudently along, we were on our merry way back into the forest under the cool shelter from the sun. But from this section on, the path was definitely way more exciting to manoeuvre through. Much more narrower pave, and even at times having to balance on thick tree trunks and all. I imperatively enjoyed my climb for this particular trek during my whole stay in the South Island of New Zealand. I found the zeal and passion just moving through the forest. Yes, it was tiring, but I found the joy in it. I felt so alive and just plain satisfied. I really don’t know how else to explain this feeling but it was pure simple happiness! 😀

I recalled we did asked other trekkers who were descending back from the lake, how much more distance we had to cover. And the answers to that were always, “Oh yeah yeah, soon, very soon.” And after a while, we figured, “… soon, very soon.” was but a mere sentence. Totally inaccurate. Well in their defence, probably the distance was short, but maybe we were already quite worn out that “… soon, very soon.” seemed “… far, all so very far.” Haha!

We just had to ramble through and press forward!

So trust me when I say that these huge pieces of logs that you have to cross over, is a pretty good indicator that the end is near. The end to eternal ethereal beauty of Lake Marian was just so close within our reach. Honest!

4. Lake Marian

Lake Marian is an alpine lake in a hanging valley formed by glacial action. This lake lies above the bush line and is surrounded by the amazing Darren Mountains. The Lake Marian region probably provides the most enticing setting of a hidden gem in the Fiordland National Park region. Perfect for photographers!

Albeit jaded, the breeze from the lake just doused the tiredness and rekindled a whole new feeling of enthusiasm and glow! When we first saw the sight of Lake Marian, we were awestricken. Speechless. Dumbfounded.

I needed a moment to soak in the wondrous beauty of it all. The distant partially white snow-capped Darren Mountains as backdrop and the undisturbed clear waters were just in a perfect cosmos. It was really impressive how incredible Mother Nature was. And time and again, she never failed to amaze and blow me away. It was like a wallpaper that I would only imagined and dreamed about, but there it was, sprawled right in front of me in my peripheral vision, unimpeded!

The hours of climb through the forest and all the pushing through was all worth it. Worth it to be in the moment as such, and to have that memory to have at least seen and felt it just once was bliss enough.

We spend quite a long time by the alpine lake. Having our packed lunch of sandwiches, admiring the beauty, and of course taking loads of photos. Haha!

It was so beautiful, we were quite reluctant to leave. But we did have quite a journey back to the parking lot. Alas, we had to leave to make up for the time before it turned dark.

 

TIPS?

(a) Start the trek EARLY

Before embarking on this Lake Marian trek, I already knew we had to start the trek early. But because we were beat out from previous nights, we decided that we would still get up early, but… just not so much earlier.

Hence, we missed out on the magnificent reflections of the Darren Mountains on the lake waters; which could be seen when the weather was calm making the waters in Lake Marian very much still. And that usually happened at dawn when the air would be crisp and the breeze at its minimal. When we were heading towards the lake, we stopped to have a conversation with a couple from Israel. They headed to the lake extremely early in the wee morning, and were already on their way back. We saw some of the shots they took of Lake Marian early in the morning, they were GORGEOUS! Words cannot describe.

So if you want to have amazing reflection shots of the mountains imprinted on the lake waters, a good timing to arrive at Lake Marian would be around 8 – 9 am? That was according to the Israeli couple.

If not, Lake Marian is still a gorgeous sight in the late morning early afternoon; which was what we got to see. Still ain’t half bad you know. 😀

(b) Go for a SWIM

Minor regrets in life comes when you thought you were all packed for a trek, but didn’t occur to you that you could actually bring your swimming gear. I didn’t know swimming was allowed at Lake Marian, well… apparently so it seemed. If I had a do over, I would make sure I pack my swimming essentials that’s for sure. I am positively sure the waters would be so refreshing after a long arduous climb up. Totally energising!

But because we were not prepared for a swim, we only doused our hands in the waters, which was extremely chilly!

(c) Beacon of SAFETY

The start of the tramping track on this Lake Marian trek would be after the series of mini waterfalls. The pathway started to get more uneven underfoot and the route was not at all straightforward. Hence, it would definitely be advisable that one should be of moderate to good level of fitness and also have a certain level of navigation and survival skills.

Getting to Lake Marian was still somewhat manageable. We just had to find orange beacon arrows mounted on tree trunks, or any form of track markers or indicators. Of which, some were very obviously spotted, while others required a wee bit more eye for details. But either way, it was still alright, coming from someone who really do not have much jungle experience.

However, on the way back, we had probably missed a beacon and sort of side tracked a little. The pathway did not seemed at all crossable. Hence, in such situation it would definitely be wise to trust your gut, retract your steps and find the orange beacon or any indicator that you might have missed, sometimes it could be a red ribbon or something like that.

Always remember to be safe. If you don’t feel that it is right, even the slightest bit, to move forward… don’t. Trust yourself.

The Department of Conservation Te Papa Atawbai, a government agency in charge of conserving New Zealand’s natural and historic heritage, placed Lake Marian Track to be in the ‘Advanced: Tramping track’ category.

In New Zealand, tracks that are listed in this government agency website, are placed in one of six categories. And to be placed under ‘Advanced: Tramping track’, indicates that the Lake Marian Track is considered to be the second most demanding track, with ‘Expert: Route’ being the most challenging one.

Click for more information about the six walking track categories.

Hence, it is always wise to stay safe and be mindful of the surroundings!

Trekking is always a good way to avoid huddled groups of people, and a great way to find solace. I always relish the moments spend trekking. The serenity of it all just cannot be bought with money! And I do hope to conquer more treks in the future.

Hope this prods you to get yourself out of bed early to capture some awesomeness, and just be around nature!

So remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

How to get there? 

En Route to Milford Sound via Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes & Homer Tunnel 

Milford Sound 

TIPS? 

And New Zealand… … Probably the place where I might have left a little part of me. Surrounded only by beauty, serenity and hope seeping through the snowcapped mountains, valleys and ridges, I have no qualms that any sombre mood would definitely be uplifted, for sure.

Well… … at least I know mine had. Looking back at the photos taken there, it does bring back the memories that had impinged on me when I was in New Zealand, South Island for close to a month.

 

How to get there?

It was a one day trip from Te Anau township where we resided at to Milford Sound. A very laidback drive with many quick respites that included mini sightseeing and camera shots along the way! ‘Cause why rush, when the en route’s views were just as impeccable!

A straightforward driving route on the Te Anau-Milford Highway 94 will basically take you there in approximately 1 hr 50 mins? And that does not include respites. So I would say a 2 hour (ish) drive or longer?

 

En Route to Milford Sound via Eglinton Valley, Mirror Lakes & Homer Tunnel

So if you are within the Te Anau vicinity, then you had better take a driving trip (preferably self-drive), and embark on an expedition on the Te Anau-Milford Highway 94. You don’t even have to hike, walk, or claw your way through the mud, bushes or forest to have views that are as marvellous as what you would feast your eyes upon on this drive en route to Milford Sound.

And I know it does sound crazily exaggerated here, but I am not kidding. It was THE MOST amazing vista I had ever seen from a viewpoint of a driver/passenger IN THE CAR. The entire stretch up Highway 94 was just BAM amazing! It was ridiculous endless marvelling on my end; I just can’t… …!

1. Eglinton Valley

Now picture Eglinton Valley as this gorgeous piece of open field of lustrous green patch sprawled across hectares, accompanied with the distant mountains stretched out into the far off land as backdrop. That was imperatively a scene not to forget! And with the endless quiet highway, anywhere was a good spot to park by the side of the road and gawked at the wonders of Mother Nature.

IMG_1897

Since we set off in the late morning, the strong afternoon sunlight beamed so generously on everything that the entire landscape just glistened in front of us. It was picture perfect.

Along the way, we paused to immerse in a stream with close to turquoise clear waters flowing with benign. So peaceful and calm, the icy cold waters streamed down without a care in the world. It was just beautiful.

2. Mirror Lakes

Don’t be fooled by the ‘Lakes’ in the naming of this. It is not really a huge patch of lake or any sort. It is more of a pond? Okay, maybe slightly larger than a pond. It is not hard to miss this pit stop as there would be cars parked along the side of the road, and a decent signage too!

A 2 minutes or less mini boardwalk would take you down to the viewing deck where you would be greeted by the still waters and mountains. And if you are lucky maybe a cute ducky or 2?!

You don’t have to spend too much time at Mirror Lakes, ‘cause the real action and mind-blowing views comes soon after.

3. Homer Tunnel

Anyone heading to Milford Sound has to go through Homer Tunnel. Since the tunnel can only fit in a stream of cars in a single file each time (each way), hence there would be a bit of a wait time if cars from the other side of the tunnel would be making their way over.

Which was no biggie at all, considering the majestic view in the vicinity just compensated for it all! Families actually parked their mini vans, and have lunch tables all set up just next to the entrance/exit of Homer Tunnel; facing the glacier. Having lunch without an impeding view of the glacier? HELLO, YES PLEASE, ANYTIME! 😀

Seeing that we had quite a bit of a wait time, we decided not to join in the car queue, but parked alongside the families having lunch! We had some time to immerse in the beauty of the mountains engulfing from the sides with trickling of waters down the ridges like mini waterfalls. Oh they were all so beautiful as the sparkle under the afternoon sunlight, like little streams of confetti!

The white glistening glacier was probably the highlight for everyone waiting at the entrance of Homer Tunnel. It was so up-close and personally, it was unbelievable that it was just there; so within your reach! It was crazy! And of course, we had to snap a hell load of photos! We did notice some people exploring deeper into the glacier area, but because we were tight on time, we decided to have that a miss.

 

Milford Sound

After an arduous but all so satisfactory and self-fulfilling drive from Te Anau township, we had finally arrived at Milford Sound! By then, taking into account all of our respites and photo-snapping, it was already late afternoon, and the sun was soon to set.

We had a quick lunch/tea at the Blue Duck Café. Cannot really recall exactly what I ordered, but probably a standard set of coffee and meat pastry puff? Or did I bring along my own sandwich? Okay, I think probably I did brought my own sandwich and bought a coffee from the café. 😀

Then the exploring begun! We embarked on the Milford Foreshore Walk, which was a pretty easy grade boardwalk with some gravels and slight forested area. So peaceful and serene considering it was already late afternoon, there was practically close to no one around anymore.

Just the sound of the cool crisp howling of the sea breeze and the occasional honks coming from the Milford Sound Cruise Tours. They were all probably already done with their magical cruise day tour around Milford Sound vicinity, and to think, we only just begun! Haha! 😀

 

TIPS?

(a) Bring a packed lunch/snack

Since the journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound can be a little long, it would be always nice to have a snack of some sort for when you decide to rest. And a great spot to fuel up and get those legs stretching and blood circulating would be near the entrance of Homer Tunnel! With the close-up view of the glacier being so perfectly in place and in a cosmos with the surroundings, having lunch there would make any nature lover jelly!

(b) Start journey from Te Anau to Milford Sound EARLY

Now I am not saying bright and early like 6 or 7 am even, but I would say a reasonable time between 9 and 10 am (ish) is a good period to set off. This will imperatively give you plenty of time to snap pictures of Eglinton Valley and the river streams, the Mirror Lakes, and definitely not forgetting, having able to explore the glacier just at the entrance of Homer Tunnel!

(c) Drive-Thru Homer Tunnel with CARE

Inside Homer Tunnel is pitch dark with NO side lights or beacon of any sorts within the tunnel. It is only towards the other side where there would be shafts of sunlight peering through and beacons to direct you along, other than that, your headlights, and of course, the headlights coming from other cars in front and behind you are all you have.

Entering the tunnel for the first time is like taking a ride on Disneyland’s Thunder Mountain. I mean, it was not any fast like a roller coaster in that sense, but we were entering a tunnel, which is drilled through a mountain so I guess it was kinda the same? Haha…!

Since, it was pitch black, manoeuvring slowly through the tunnel with care is fundamental. Just go slow, and follow the car in front!

(d) Staying over at Milford Sound?

To be honest, I don’t think there is a need to stay over at Milford Sound. Yes, the landscape is spectacularly immaculate and out of this world, but if you not coming to Milford Sound from a Fiordland’s multi-day trek or had been on the road for a while, then I reckoned that there is really no need to spend a night at Milford Sound.

There is really nothing else you could do there other than the 20 minutes Milford Foreshore Walk. Not to mention, in the middle of nowhere, there are no shops or restaurants to dine. Heading back to humble Te Anau township with so many amazing food options and necessities available would be a better option. The accommodation at Te Anau is also much reasonable.

Besides, remember the 2 hour (ish) drive from Te Anau to Milford Sound being so wickedly awesome, well… … you get to experience it for the second time in 1 day! WHY NOT?!

However, if you feel you might be too exhausted from the drive, and do feel like spending more time at Milford Sound, then I recommend ONE night. Just one night would be more than enough. 🙂

Click for more details on Milford Sound accommodation.

Milford Sound could be experienced differently giving you angular perspectives of it. Whether you are

(i) going on a Milford Sound cruise tour (day/overnight), or

(ii) embarking on one of Fiordland’s multi-day treks, or

(iii) simply a self-drive from Te Anau township

Milford Sound will still always be an amazing place in the South Island of New Zealand. I will not forget how in awed I was in the car on the way to Milford Sound. The route was just as sweet amazing as the finishing line.

Picture does speak a thousand words, but trust me when I say, you need to be there to really believe it. Believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world.

So get out there, and explore! Remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

 

Route:

Parking Lot –> Elevated Track –> Summit –> And Back

Total Distance:

16 km (9.9 miles)

Average Walk Time:

~ 7 – 9 hours or slightly less

(with plenty of time to take great shots & light snacking)

Seasonal Restrictions:

Track closed for lambing between 1st October and 10th November each year.

Difficulty:

🙂 🙂 🙂

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there?

Highlights and Views

TIPS?

The Wanaka region is still by far the most memorable part of my New Zealand trip. Weather in New Zealand can get pretty precarious; with moments of sunshine, and then moments of melancholy!

In hindsight, we were pretty much blessed during our visit to the Wanaka region with perfect skies, not too chilly temperature, and best of all, refreshingly cool breeze that fills every volume corner of our lungs as we inhaled in the best of nature!

 

How to get there?

The start of the Roys Peak Track is just a quick and simple approximately 5 km drive North West from Wanaka Township! Drive on Ardmore Street, which will lead you on Wanaka- Mount Aspiring Road.

Look out for the yellow signage (which is not as prominent) ‘Roys Peak Track’ on the right (if you are coming from Wanaka Township, that is). The car parking area is just there at the base of the peak!

 

Highlights and Views

There is a green donation box near the entrance of the Roys Peak Track. The donation is more for maintenance and upgrade of the walking track. It is not compulsory and you do not have to be compelled to donate if you do not want to.

The first section of the Roys Peak Track crosses private land, hence, it is sage to keep on the paved track, and respect landowner’s property! Since there would be approximately a month’s long of lambing between October and November, obviously we could get to see some, well… … many… … sheep and lambs up close and personal all throughout the track up!

And of course, you have to accept the animals in all their glory right?

By that, I meant the woolly fur balls’ poops and their glorious smell that accompanies with! Yup, poopies all over the track; especially the initial section! Here. There. EVERYWHERE! 😀 Glorious smell!

The view just keeps getting more amazing as you ascend. I couldn’t help but always take a glance back as I climbed up a few steps further!

First it was just the hills, the thin strip of Wanaka Township, and the partial view of Lake Wanaka, then slowly, the lake view just extents wider, and the town strip gets larger! Soon we could see the sprawling Wanaka Township on the right and the cerulean Lake Wanaka on the left- all within our peripheral vision; unimpeded!

The distant mountains and beyond were now visible as well! Partially shrouded by the clouds, some mountains were snow-capped. Hence, I kept my eyes peeled for the moment the mountains were less covered by the clouds to capture a shot or two or three!

I do know that the view is going to be even more awe-inspiring up at the summit of Roys Peak, but I just couldn’t help myself! I had to pause the trudge up (at intervals), snapped pictures and immersed in it all! It was just too beautiful, it was impeccable! Maybe that’s why when people say that they take a certain time to complete a trek; I probably take longer than what was mentioned! 🙂

Along the journey up Roys Peak Track, you will see an up sloping field of alpine tussocks, and from far it looks like fur balls of hair that sways so gently and in sync with the wind. The tussocks just remind me of the movie: Dr. Seuss’ The Lorax, where the colourful vibrant trees look like cotton candy and balls of hair!

There is a long narrow strip for respite just before you continue on the climb to the summit. You could stop here for a snack/lunch break and if you are really not up for it, you could slowly make your descend. Most people would stop here and have photos taken of them on the narrow strip with the blue hues of sky, lake and mountains as backdrop! Very Instagram-worthy! ;P

This is a nice spot to be ensorcelled by the beauty of the landscape in front of you. And by this time, you would be imperatively certain that the arduous trudge up earlier was definitely all worth it; every drop of sweat!

Comparing the long elevated way up from the base, to the climb from the respite area to the summit, the latter is really not that long a journey. You have reached the Roys Peak summit when you see the tall radio antenna tower!

So knowing this now, if you see it afar whilst climbing, maybe you would want to use this as your beacon of hope to spur you on? Haha!

I cannot explain how much satisfaction I had gain from conquering the Roys Peak Track. The amount of effort I vested in to get a view as gawkingly breath-taking as this was just very deserving in my opinion.

You know there are some treks where you don’t need to put much effort and still get awesome views? And there are some which make you cringe and grit your teeth, but yet you still press on, and are rewarded with the views to die for?

Well, though sometimes we all need treks which requires less effort in exchange for good view; ‘cause you know, we are all not made of steel; and we cannot always and every day be conquering challenging treks right?

But, in my opinion, it is good and healthy to challenge yourself every now and then to a trek that makes you work your ass for something deserving. I feel a greater sense of achievement as compared to a simpler and easier trek! Don’t you think so? 🙂

‘Cause the best memories will be deeply etched when you actually put an effort and work for it rather than just getting it on a silver platter! Though, I have to say, sometimes silver platters would be nice too! Haha! 😀

 

TIPS?

(a) Just keep swimming moving… … Just keep swimming moving… …

For someone who hasn’t done the Roys Peak Track before, you couldn’t really pinpoint where the final destination (a.k.a summit) really is. All you see is just a relentless elevated winding track to the heavens; which means against gravity! And well… … we all know, gravity ain’t exactly the best-est of friend sometimes right?

Definitely not the most benign track to be on, but you really need to rivet on the goal here; and that’s to reach the summit, because you presage that the view up there is going to be so swooning, and it’s just a pity if you were to miss it! Well… … at least that’s what I tell myself whilst on this track!

So don’t just stop at the narrow strip for respite! Have a break and continue to the summit! It’s really not that far! Honest!

(b) Start the trek EARLY

If you are someone who loves pausing to snap photos, or need multiple breaks to catch your breath (because, this is a massive elevated track), then you really need to start early. Take it from someone who had done this trek in the morning, and finished it close to evening.

(c) Sunscreen is a MUST; alongside windproof outer coat

Roys Peak Track gave me my first sunburn on my lower arms in over a decade! Usually I would use sunscreen and at most I would just tan up, but this time there was massive skin peeling. Why? ‘Cause I was lazy, that’s why.  And overly complacent! It was bad enough for me to get an aloe vera after sun lotion to soothe the burn.

This is an exposed track, with no trees to shelter you like most forest track. So do not be lazy like I was, and slap on sunscreen!

Windproof coat is much needed just in case the weather changes. You do not want to be freezing your ass at 1578 m above sea level, do you? Haha!

Trekking is always a good way to avoid huddled groups of people, and a great way to find solace. I always relish the moments spend trekking. The serenity of it all just cannot be bought with money!

Hope this prods you to get yourself out of bed early to capture some awesomeness, and just be around nature!

So remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

Route:

Round trip:Parking Lot –> Forest Walk –> Valley –> Glacier viewpoint–> And Back

Total Distance:

5.4 km (3.36 miles)

Total Average Walk Time:

~ 2 hours

(with plenty of time to take great shots & light snacking)

Difficulty:

🙂

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there?

What you might experience?

Fox Glacier Valley Walk OR Franz Josef Glacier Walk?

TIPS? Going on Douglas Walk & Peters Pool?

This trek wasn’t an impromptu one as it was for the Fox Glacier Valley walk; which I wrote about sometime in July this year. If you have not read that already, then here it is: Treks: Fox Glacier Valley Walk, Fox Glacier.

Just as Fox Glacier Valley walk is as easy, so is this Franz Josef Glacier walk- with minimal strain! I love valley walks as compared to forest walk because of the wider peripheral version of the landscapes around. Furthermore, you get the option to look up at the skies every once in awhile; which I love to do too!

 

How to get there?

Option 1: Drive

From Franz Josef Waiau township, head down South, and pass Franz Josef i-Site Visitor Information Centre. Cross the Waiho River bridge, and make a left turn onto Glacier Access Road. The signage for this is very obvious. A quick drive to the end of the road (start of the walk) would take probably 10 minutes at most?

Option 2: Walk/ Cycle

For those who would like to embark on this walk starting from Franz Josef Waiau township, there are tracks for you to walk or cycle to the end of the Glacier Access Road too.

That’s about 3.8 km (2.36 miles) and approximately 1 hour from the start of the Glacier Access Road to the end of the road (a.k.a. Glacier Carpark). However, if you are cycling, then the duration is reduced by half. The route is still the same as if you were driving there- you would also need to pass the Franz Josef i-Site Visitor Information Centre, and cross the Waiho River bridge.

 

What you might experience?

On a better day, from the parking lot, you could already get a major breath-taking partial peep at the majestic Franz Josef glacier!

This is quite a popular walk as it is fairly easy; great fun for the whole family. Plus, it was the weekend, so basically we were spending our morning literally in a playground; nature’s playground!

We started off with a short walk through the forest, with gentle streams flowing. The real awe-inspiring series of scenes started when the forest opened up to a wide angular view of the distant Franz Josef glacier and its moraines surrounding. It was imperatively rejuvenating. It was our first virgin trek through a valley, so it was a pretty amazing experience despite a melancholic morning!

Shaft of some sunlight were soon observed as we advanced closer towards the viewpoint at the end of the trek. Along the way, other than seeing moraines littered the ground, there were refreshing waterfalls that gushed from the cliff side. Quirky glacier formations were espied when closer to the viewpoint- with tints of grey, white and icy blue.

Things could get a wee bit challenging for the younger ones as the route gets a little steeper and less gripped underfoot due to the loose pebbles and rocks when closer to the viewpoint. So do be cautious!

There were throngs of people at the viewpoint. Some having late morning munchies, while majority were taking photos as mementos; including us! 😀

By right, the highlight of this walk had to be the view of the Franz Josef glacier right? This was the case back then. However, in retrospect, I feel the greatest memory to take away from this walk, and was fortunately caught on camera (though not as well focused), was the sighting of what it seemed to be a tahr? It’s a goat-like creature. I am really not certain about its official name.

If it was really a tahr, which is classified as a pest in New Zealand (read more about it here: Tahr; New Zealand’s pest?), I would still find this moment a treasure!

‘Cause, hey, it’s not during every trek or walk you get to see wild animals right? Though, I did encounter a close up session with a kea during my walk through the Fox Glacier Valley… … But that’s beside the point! Every wild animal spotted during a walk/trek is a memory worth treasuring, no? 😀

So it is always nice to keep your eyes peeled to the surroundings, you never know what treasure you might find!

 

Fox Glacier Valley Walk OR Franz Josef Glacier Walk?

Since I have been comparing these two walks, now the question is which one is worth a go at? Well here’s a checklist to ease us into the answer.

 

Fox Glacier Valley Walk Franz Josef Glacier Walk

(more) dramatic rivers/streams?

(more) dramatic waterfalls?

orange tainted rocks?

snow-capped mountains along the side cliffs?

views at viewpoint?

And the list can go on… …

Not to say Franz Josef Glacier Walk was horrible (it really wasn’t at all), but in comparison to Fox Glacier Valley Walk, I would definitely prefer the latter.

Maybe it was the gloomy weather, or maybe it was the thick fog that may have shrouded the snow-capped mountains that may be there (which I will never know, unless I return on this walk again on a much sunnier day), but in general, I felt the vista at Fox Glacier Valley Walk had much more character and personality.

So if it isn’t obvious enough, the answer is Fox Glacier Valley Walk!

But of course if you have time at hand, and you are at Franz Josef township, then it doesn’t hurt to just take 2 hours off to explore the area right? You may even see much more than I did during my time there!

 

TIPS? Going on Douglas Walk & Peters Pool?

1

Go For a Trek-athon

Embark on other walks/treks within the vicinity!

The best thing about this Franz Josef Glacier walk is its location! Just within the car park compound, there is another entrance that branches out to other simple walking/trekking options!

I recall it was the first day we arrived at Franz Josef township, and with a couple of hours of daylight left, we decided not to waste any time. We headed straight for a simple trek on the Douglas Walk and to Peters Pool to end off the day!

Since Franz Josef Glacier walk is only approximately 2 hours, you could continue on your trek-athon, if you please, and just pop by Peters Pool. On a clear day, the view by the little pond (Peters Pool) would give you unobstructed partial views of the massive Franz Josef glacier. I would definitely recommend this!

2

Morning Jog

Fancy a morning jog? Then take it to the glacier!

With route fairly easy, and just a 10 minutes drive from Franz Josef township, going on this jog is really doable! We saw a few couples doing this!

If we had more time, I would definitely suggest this! And MAYBE we would be going on this route a second time, and MAYBE the weather would be better, and MAYBE the landscape would have more personality then? And MAYBE Franz Josef Glacier walk MAY have more ticks on the checklist above?

Well… … Life always have a bucket load of MAYs, MAYBEs and IFs. 😀

3

Sunscreen

As this valley walk is an open area with no shade from the, at times, inexorable sunlight (if any), slather on sunscreen you must! Skin peeling as the corollary of your laziness to apply sunscreen can look very unsightly in photos, I know… … Been there. 🙁

4

Check For Track Closure

Another tip, which is the MOST important, is to check if the track is close for the day due to ice collapse, flooding or rock falls before you embark on the trek!

You can do so at the local Department of Conservation (DOC) office at Fox Glacier Township, or at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre at Franz Josef Township.

Click for more information on Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre

So remember to Travel Whenever, and have a good trek!

Dee

Route:

Gillespies Beach Car Park –> Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk (1932 Gold Dredge) –> Gillespies Beach –> Gillespies Lagoon (bridge) –> Galway Beach Seal Colony –> Miners Tunnel (backtrack) –> Gillespies Lagoon –> Gillespies Beach –> Gillespies Beach Car Park

Total Distance:

6.8 km (4.2 miles)

Total Average Walk Time:

~ 6 – 7 hours (with plenty of time to get lost, take great shots and respites (lunch) when necessary)

Difficulty:

🙂 🙂
Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there?

Trekking Route + What you might experience (getting lost)?

TIPS?

This was a much anticipated trek when in Fox Glacier township. With the description on Google saying that we could actually trek to see a colony of seals with beady black eyes, I voted ‘Why Not!’ instantly! With no fences or viewing glass that impedes, just pure wilderness and wild fur seals, it was an opportunity I wouldn’t want to miss- with great hope that nature would be on our side for us to spot them for afar of course.

 

How to get there?

An approximately 25 minutes drive from Fox Glacier Township, head on Cook Flat Road, and turn right onto the gravel- made Gillespies Beach Road. The journey could be slow and draggy due to the nature of the road, and the view, well… … isn’t that all awe-inspiring, but just bare with it!

Blast on music and enjoy the bumpy ride, because the corollary is just too sweet to not hold on to it! Just keep thinking of those fur seals; wild and untouched; that’s the main goal (gold) here. 😉

But of course, we were pretty lucky to see an amazingly tranquil sight when the weather changes and the sun starts to cuddle up for the night. On the journey back after the trek, we had views that were just inexplicably breath-taking that we had to stop the car and snap!

 

Trekking Route + What you might experience?

This route we took, well… took us a minuscule bit of time to figure out and to maneuver about because there is just so many routes you could actually take and things you could see all within the same vicinity. With a variety of route choices, and not enough time, we need to make wise decisions. So let me ease this out for you and you could totally skip certain routes that doesn’t interest you!

At the car park you will be first greeted by a massive rustic suction dredge machinery designed by Edward Von Schmidt in the 1800s. With parts of the machine gone, and rust flakes all over the entire dredge, it was time to step into the time capsule and take us back a few hundred years.

You have the options to take the ‘Gillespies Suction Dredge Walk’ which is a short 15 minutes loop or the 5 minutes ‘Miners Cemetery Walking Track’. However, we decided to head for the 1932 Gold Dredge a.ka. the Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk instead.

1. Gillespies Beach (detour appetizer before the main trek)

Before that, I was curious to where the route with the signage on the left labelled ‘Beach’ would take us. Obviously the beach… Duh! But I was just interested to see the beach first alright? That’s not a crime right? 😛

Gillespies beach is just perfect for anyone who wants solace. Placid; with only the waves crashing against the shore, and the late morning sea breeze howling, it was a cool way (literally) to start any day, any time!

The insanely many rocks that awash and shrouded the sand on the beach was definitely a unique sight for me. I have never seen so many pebbles and rocks on a beach that people actually could stack pebble-made sculptures; which I must add, do act as good photography pieces- not complaining here. 😛

2. Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk (1932 Gold Dredge)

This is the start of the main trekking route towards the seal colony! Whoo hoo!

We started off with walking amongst the tall shrubs, bushes, certain animal poopies and friendly flies that always come along with the poopies. Not pointing fingers here but I reckon the culprit… … the sheep. I really do. We saw a few of them en route to the car park; just saying… … 😛

Soon we saw a few more rustic machineries that were half submerge in the pond; with a massive part of them still sticking out. I really cannot help but think of Tow Mater from the Disney movie Cars upon the sight of all of these!

Ambling along a very narrow walkway under some shade and admiring, these machineries are so rusted and ancient that it was just unbelievable that they were so close to reach (not that I actually touched them).

3. Gillespies Lagoon (bridge); getting lost?

Part 2 for the walk was to head towards Gillespies Lagoon. To do that, we had to head pass the shrubs and bushes towards the beach (just follow the signage).

Once you see the beach with huge chunks of dried logs sprawled on the sand at intervals with countless rocks and pebbles, head right towards the Lagoon. However, if you think that you have seen enough, you could head left, and you would be on your merry way back to the car park via Gillespies Beach.

Now here comes the hard part.

We got a little carried away with walking along the beach that we pass our turn to the right which will lead us to the bridge. We even thought we had to climb boulders and across waters to get across. But none of such difficult tasks were needed, not to worry.

We saw the lagoon but thought that the lagoon wasn’t the right one as we could not see the bridge. Well, it turns out that we had to turn right BEFORE passing the lagoon and walk along it. Because sooner enough there would be a signage on the right (amongst the bushes) that says… … Hey what do you know, ‘Bridge 3 minutes’. Feeling stupid then we were. Haha! A little setback here, but not to worry; the day was still long!

We spend more time by the bridge and the tannin lagoon taking massive photos, and of course, had some snacks for lunch and watched a couple of duckies roamed in the lagoon! It was a nice serene moment for respite.

4. Galway Beach Seal Colony

From here onwards, the route starts to be a little more rocky and challenging. So if you want to head back after seeing the bridge, DON’T. Push yourself a bit further through the forest, and at least make it to the Miners Tunnels. Anyway, it is only about 10 – 15 minutes (ish) from the bridge (with no muddy sections)! I’m sure with a slow walk, it would be fine! And after that, if you still feel you cannot carry on, then backtrack. 🙂

For us, we decided to leave the Miners Tunnel for when we come back from Galway Beach Seal Colony because we all know; once we got stuck at a place for photos, we would spend an ungodly amount of time at that one place. And at that moment, time was a factor. It was already long past noon (we probably spend too much time by the lagoon and lost track of time). This was great evidence for us to keep moving or we will never make it back before sundown! Haha! 😀

The gravel route in the dense forest soon turned muddy. I mean, real muddy. Too muddy that at times, your only option was to brave through it and sink yourself, close to ankle deep, into the mud. Hhhmmm… … What a way to get close to nature. But of course, I would try not succumb to such.

I would think of ways like hopping and leaping from one dry(ish) spot to the next and walked gingerly close to the edge if I had to, just to avoid the thick mud if it was possible. J would followed suit, but at times she decided to take another way across and got her shoes a tad bit closer to nature. There were also other times when she was faster at maneuvering through them than I was, and well… … when she sunk in, we both knew it was a danger zone, and I would then avoid it. So for the times when she sunk in, I really do have her to thank for that. Oops! Haha! :S

Sometimes, whoever was faster to cross over the more challenging mud section, that person would help pull the other over, or just communicate with the other on the next step of action if the other party was stuck in a muddy predicament. Sounds like we are in an obstacle course, and it did felt like it for awhile. But since there were so many muddy sections, soon we were immune to them, and maneuvering around them were quicker.

There were some logs at intervals in the muddy sections to help people cross over it, but sometimes, the logs aren’t at all stable, and stepping on them may cause you to slip and fall into the puddle of mud. So do be extra prudent.

There you have it, what you may experience on this trek!

I did however came out of this with minimal damage; though with some minor cuts from branches, and some form of sinking into the mud; which was surely unavoidable. And yes, I am proud of myself for that. Haha! 😀

I do not have pictures to show for the muddy routes as we pretty much had our hands filled (filth) from dodging around the mud. Haha! But trust me, it was muddy. We passed a friendly old couple who were on their way back to the car park, and his wife had accidentally sunk into the mud, kneecap down. Oh man, what a sight it was. But kudos to the couple, who did not allow age to get in their way for an experience of adventure. Salute!

After all the hard work which seems like an eternity of dense forest mud dodging, we were exhilarated when we saw a flight of metal stairway to paradise. We, I mean, I, climbed down the steep wet stairway hurriedly and hopped boulder to boulder to the beach.

Oh man, it was amazing to have finally arrived. And the hunt (not literally of course) for the fur seal begun once J ambled over! Whee…! I must say, it wasn’t easy to search for the colony. We had to walk a long way along the beach through the boulders slowly, and be consistently on alert mode as we do not want to be found in a situation where we were too close and trapped within the colony. The key is to espy the wild from a distance, yeah?

And we found them! Well, not a colony, but just a few sprawling on the sand. But I’ll take it! Better than nothing right? Maybe it was the time we arrived, it was already late afternoon by then.

Regardless, elated as we were, we tried to contain our excitement so as to not scare them. All the mud dodging in the forest earlier was worth it! 😀

The way back to the car park was backtracking; meaning another round of mud dodging through the dense forest. Whee… … … … … …. I cannot wait… …

5. Miners Tunnel (backtrack)

The Miners Tunnel was a nice checkpoint to assure us that we were out of the dense forest, and we could actually make it out in one piece by sundown. Melodramatic much? But yeah… … It was really getting late, and there weren’t a single soul trekking with us in the forest.

The view of the ocean was breath-taking. A nice aerial view of everything, and on good days I heard you may actually see the seals from way up here at the viewpoint! Alas we weren’t this lucky that day, but hey, seeing them at the beach earlier, that was good enough! 😀

 

TIPS?

(a) Good time to start the trek? EARLY!

How early is early? Well… … It’s really up to you. But I reckon, if I would do this again, 8 am (ish) is a nice time to work with.

This way you will imperatively have plenty of time to admire the scenery by Galway Beach where the seal colony is. I mean with all the hard work put into get there, the least you could do to reward yourself is to spend a little bit more time by the beach lunching (away from the seal colony of course) don’t you think so?

I recall we did not get enough time to soak in the beach at all, and was compelled to head back soon. 🙁 It was very close to sunset and we were still only halfway through the muddy sections on the trek back. This frightened us a little. Okay, a lot. Because this means we aren’t even close to the Miners Tunnels, which also meant that we were still in the dense forest, and light-less is definitely not the way to maneuver around in the forest; with no flashlight. I bet even Jessie J can’t help you here. #justsaying

Hence, it is always good to have ample day light to work with, no?

(b) Take photo of the signage with the trekking map printed on it!

Either with your mobile phone or camera, make it a habit to snap a photo of the signage with a map at the start of any trek.

First of all, you can always refer to it to remind yourself how long the journey would be, because sometimes the signage does indicate the duration of the trek; which I must add is not always accurate- speaking for many experiences. So back to the first TIP? Start your trek EARLY!

Secondly, the map on the signage would help you if you were to get lost and there ain’t a soul to ask for directions. We really relied on photos like these on quite a few occasions, so don’t underestimate these simple photographs- they can go a long way.

And lastly, a good photo to use as documentation for your trekking trip! Haha! 😀

(c) En route back to the car park; walk along Gillespies beach instead

When passing the bridge the second time on the way back to the car park, take a stroll along the beach instead! There is no need to literally backtrack unless you really do want to experience the Gillespies Bucket Dredge Walk (1932 Gold Dredge) one more time.

In my opinion, saunter along the beach when it is close to nightfall beats walking through the shrubs, bushes and animal poopies. Furthermore, you could have the opportunity to maybe spot one or two fur seals chillaxing by the beach too (speaking from experience)! So keep your eyes peeled like J did, because thanks to her we managed to have a second round of fur seal watching! This time it was by Gillespies Beach near the car park; so we have all the time in the world to admire it from afar without fear of being trapped in the forest without a flashlight! Yay! 😀

Hope this goads you to get yourself out of bed early to capture some awesomeness, and just be around nature!

So remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

How to get there?

Place to stay: Lake Hawea Hotel

What you might experience?

I would say most roads on the South Island of New Zealand are just beyond words. The congenial surroundings includes long stretch of straight roads, with hectares of open grasslands, distant mountains, and occasional herds of cows and sheep. All these are in a great cosmos; all these are situated in a little region we call Middle Earth; where really, the magic of God’s creation happens.

 

How to get there?

We headed down from Fox Glacier Township towards the Wanaka region (approximately a 3 hours drive; nonstop), which will ultimately bypass the pristine Lake Hawea. So beautiful… …

And since we are passing Lake Hawea, why not have a respite at the Lake Hawea Hotel to soak in the cerulean crystal clear waters of Lake Hawea! A little pit stop before entering the main Wanaka Township! Sounds like the great plan! 😀

Taking a very straightforward cruise, drive on Haast Highway (a long drive of approximately 1.5 hours from Fox Glacier Township), towards Haast Township. Continue along Haast Pass-Makarora Road, and onto Makarora-Lake Hawea Road. Then make a left onto the filter lane on Capell Avenue. And voilà, Lake Hawea Hotel is on the right! From Haast Township to Lake Hawea Hotel, it is an approximately another 1.5 hours more.

If you continue on Makarora-Lake Hawea Road, you would be driving towards Albert Town, which will soon lead you to main Wanaka Township.

 

Place to stay: Lake Hawea Hotel

Because we will not be passing Lake Hawea again, we wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to just be sluggish for a day or two by the Lake, doing absolutely nothing. And when I mean nothing, I really do mean snapping photos of course. Haha! 😀

TIP?

Get some groceries done prior to Lake Hawea!

There’s really nothing much to buy at Lake Hawea, though there’s a humble grocery store within the Hawea community. Cafés and restaurants are also available as well. Heard Sailz Restaurant and Bar is worth a stop by, though we did not try that- we survived mostly on sandwiches, cookies and whatnot because we wanted to leave the binge-eating for when we enter Wanaka Township!

‘Cause you save some here, you indulge some there, right? 😀 Haha!

The best thing about Lake Hawea Hotel is that is situated close to the highway heading to main Wanaka Township; which allows for extreme easy access. We could practically see the highway from our balcony!

With a clean spacious room layout, clear glass slider door that allows maximum natural sun rays to shine in, huge counter to dump all our groceries, a simple armchair (which J is always fascinated about) and, of course… the view of the star attraction; Lake Hawea- just within our peripheral version, this respite is just heaven on Earth!

Just slide open the door, and the view of the Lake is there. Perfecto!

At SGD$86.25/night per room, I would say this hotel is reasonably priced. Though based on individual’s budget, preference, and travel style, this might be very much otherwise.

J and I are not into the super high-end accommodation, though who wouldn’t want it right? While (J always calls it) Princess Living, is not the deciding factor here, a decently well maintained, clean ambience is a MUST for us.

All I can say is that we each have found the travel partner to last. Having travelled together for so long now, we know each other’s standards; for cleanliness (me having the lowest of low threshold for it, which has now subtly rubbed off some onto J), budget, location, etc.

And yes, to some, this may already be regarded as Princess Living, but it’s all about the travel style. What you splurge, and what you stinge on, is really on what you have higher regard for. And when we splurge on something, we always make up for it in other areas. Because, obviously we are not made of money too. Haha! 😀

So yeah, Lake Hawea Hotel was definitely to our satisfaction!

 

What you might experience?

En Route To The Wanaka Region From Fox Glacier Township

The magic happens along the stretch of Makarora-Lake Hawea Road. Well, excellent weather too does enhance the magic!

And how do you know the magic has happened?

IMG_0822

You cannot ever miss it! It’s just too eye-catching because the entire vista is awash with the natural beauty of Lake Wanaka, along with the clear mountain hills as backdrop. Coming from Fox Glacier Township, you would first reach the tip North of Lake Wanaka on the right. And even then, it is already insanely swooning! Not being melodramatic at all.

I recall us having a conversation similar to this… …

‘OH MY GOSH! LOOK!’

‘Shall we stop?’

‘I think there more lookouts ahead, we can drive further.’

‘OH MY, IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!’

‘Take out the camera!’

‘Oh no, it’s at the back!’

‘Damn it. HANDPHONE!’

We did stop awhile to snap photos once we found an empty space for vehicles to safely park by the highway. And it was just even more gorgeous stepping out of the car, and viewing it through the lens. The natural sunlight was insanely good; perfect lighting, perfect landscape! At that moment, it was really the happiest day of our lives. Literally!

We noticed that road works were happening slightly up ahead to clear rock falls, and soon, cars were in tandem on the highway. After capturing the pictures I wanted, we joined in the queue, and admired the view from inside the car. Aaaa… … That’s the life…

Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea is definitely the younger sister in this Wanaka region, as compared to Lake Wanaka. Wanting a more private time? Lake Hawea is the place to be. Away from the main Wanaka Town, this pristine Lake gives you solace within nature.

Picture does speak a thousand words, but trust me when I say, you need to be there to really believe it. Believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world.

So get out there, and explore! Remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

Route:

Car park –> Jetty Lookout –> View of Views Lookout –> Reflection Island Lookout –> Car park (Circuit Jaunt)
Total Distance:

4.4 km (2.7 miles)

Total Average Walk Time:

~ 1.5 hours (with plenty of time to take great shots and respites when necessary)
Difficulty:

🙂

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 (at that point of time)

How to get there?

Hiking Highlights and Views

TIPS? And overall experience?

 

How to get there?

A mere 5 minutes drive or so from Fox Glacier Township on Cook Flat Road, and turning right onto Lake Matheson Road will lead you straight to the parking space.

The Matheson Café is located within the vicinity if you want to settle breakfast before the walk. It opens at around 8 am. The prominent signage for this circuit jaunt near the café  marks the start of your odyssey!

Click here for more information about Lake Matheson Café


 

Hiking Highlights and Views

I was pretty much excited for this trek as there are many enrapturing images on Google that captured rad reflection of the mountains on the motionlessly tranquil Lake Matheson. The cerulean blue, alongside the strip of forest green trees just make the entire picture all in a cosmos.

Alas, that wasn’t the view for us to take home that day.

It was quite a cloudy morning to began with. With only a few minutes of intense shaft of sunlight at irregular intervals, those were my only precious opportunities to grasp when taking photos of the landscape.

Through the mini forest

From the starting point, we had to walk pass a bridge over the tannin stream and boulders. It was a much pleasant sight to take in on a morning walk. Calming and breezy, this was a moment that depicted life’s simple pleasures.

I like to take regular glances to the back when I walk. There were many times, when I got awestricken by the vista behind me; and was always glad I did not miss it. With weather that was adept at changing fast and relentless at times, it was quite possible to miss a good view with two snaps of the fingers!

Hence, I was happy to have caught the distant snow capped mountains amidst the fluffy melancholy clouds.

Into the forest we went, the road, though gravelled, was well paved. Kids of all ages could do this walk, easy.

Little information boards about the plant species were found along the way. Nice bite sized facts, made the walk intriguing. It’s really great to learn new things, especially if you are a botany lover!

Reflection Island Lookout

Because it was a circuit jaunt, going either direction would still lead you out the same way. Hence, we decided to take the way which would lead us straight to the Reflection Island Lookout first; and of course, fast- which at that time, we thought would give us the best view.

I reckoned it was the timing we went, the weather, and maybe other variables, the view was… … How should I put it? Hhhmmm… … Not as satisfying? I mean, it was nice, but not as nice as I thought it would be. (Google did set high standards for it, you know.)

It was quite a letdown for us, as we had expected the whole dandy experience. But, nevertheless, we made do with what was presented to us, learnt from it, and made the best out of it! I mean, some pictures were still really cool; having the whole lugubrious vibe and all.

This included the out- of- nowhere appointment of a fury, curled- looking fern to be the ‘face’ of my hair (courtesy of J of course). So yup, now my hair is like a walking mascot for the Ponga tree fern (or until it grows longer, and out of it)! Hhhmmm… Haha! 😀

Endless road

We decided to take a leisure stroll down the Lake Matheson Road. Cow gazing, car watching, breeze inhaling, whatever it was… …It was just imperatively nerve-calming.

The straight endless road with tranquil vista on the sides and ahead, is something we don’t get much of back home. So of course we had to spend time immersing in it all!

 

TIPS? And overall experience?

1. Best views at DAWN and DUSK!

Before we embarked on this Lake Matheson Circuit walk, we did know about the time period to get best views- at Dawn or Dusk. However, we were too shack to get our asses up early in the morning, so that was probably our corollary for being lazy bums. 🙁

Sometimes, a bit of sacrifice is really much needed in exchange for views that amazing- as seen on Google.

So hey, you win some, you lose some right? Win some hours of sleep, lose some nice photos?!

It’s all a learning experience! 😀

2. Breakfast before walk; YES please!

We did not have a meal at Lake Matheson Café, though we did pop by to have a look see at their menu board. The café does provide a peaceful vibe setting with clear distant snow capped mountain views on a good day; that I have to give it to them.

But I would say if you really want to settle breakfast outside your motel, Fox Glacier Township has great delectable varieties! Just my humble opinion anyway. I have never tried the food at the café to judge much, but food in the town could be just as good, and at a slightly cheaper price too. So… yeah…!

I would say the Hobnail Café’s breakfast at the Fox Glacier Guiding doesn’t fall shot either? A hearty breakfast of massive baked potato with stuffing and an American breakfast plate with staples of bread, eggs, sausages, bacon and hash browns to share with your friend would totally fuel you both for a great trek ahead! ‘Cause we all know… …

Sharing food = More varieties = More experience to try new food = Life’s perfect

Furthermore, the view from the glass window at Hobnail Café does paint a flawless view of the majestic snow capped mountains in the near distance! What’s not to love about it all?!

Food at the Cook Saddle Café & Saloon is amazeballs! I can’t say much about its breakfast though, but… …for lunch and dinner, the barbeque pork spare ribs with fries on the side is just finger licking awesome! (Out of topic, but just a little FYI here. Haha!)

3. Moment to relieve oneself? Fret NOT!

The public toilets just further down from the café near the car park are clean. Odourless and all, you can safely have a nice dump before or after your trek! No worries! Haha! 😀

Though we did not get great reflection views as ‘promised’ by Google, due to our laziness, or rather, mine slothfulness, I would totally do this again! Obviously at a different timing, probably near sunrise?

The walk is fairly trivial, so I don’t see why not try this once more and be enraptured by the beauty of the serene Lake Matheson with the distant backdrop of the mountains! I am sure it is going to be jaw- droppingly amazing; as ‘promised’ by Google!

Hope this goads you to get yourself out of bed early to capture some awesomeness, and just be around nature!

So remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

Route:

Round trip:Parking Lot –> Valley –> Glacier –> And Back

Total Distance:

2.6 km (1.6 miles)

Average Walk Time:

~ 2 – 2.5 hours or slightly less

(with plenty of time to take great shots & light snacking)

Difficulty:

🙂

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there?

Highlights and Views

TIPS?

This was an impromptu trekking trip, and I was, and still very much am, very glad we did it! We had an extra full day at Fox Glacier (because there were some items on our itinerary we were not that much interested in anymore), and being in a very small town, there really wasn’t much we could do. So conferring with Google… … The journey through the valley to the glacier begun! Yay! 😀

I do not honestly know how and why I had totally missed this valley walk during my itinerary research, but this is just one of those walks that are pretty much less strenuous and you get views just as invigorating!

Less energy for greater returns? Say what now? An absolute MUST DO on the South Island of New Zealand!

 

How to get there?

The drive to the start of the Fox Glacier Valley Walk is a fairly easy one, and really straightforward! Just drive down South on Haast Highway from Fox Glacier Township, and immediately turn left before the Fox River bridge. This drive takes roughly 10 minutes.

The left turn will take you straight to a huge parking area, at the end of the road, where the landscape is already melodramatic enough! Surrounded by massive cliffs on each side, it is just so ethereal.

Imagine… … If the parking area welcomes you with such imprinting effect, even before you embark on your trek, what more when you are ON the trek? The view, then, would be imperatively even more wicked!


 

Highlights and Views

Since it was an impromptu trek, we arrived at the place in the afternoon. It wasn’t very crowded then, there were basically less than 10 cars present (including ours)? The weather conditions were to our favour, as indicated on the board at the start of the trek, so we were in great expectation for good views! So let’s spiel… …

The thing about valley walks is that it was something new to me at that time. Usually the treks I embarked on were climbing up hills in the forest, or clambering on the edge of a cliff (back in Tasmania). And typically we were pretty much surrounded by trees, bushes and scrubs half the time; only to have a rewarding view at the summit or at the end.

But valley walks were very much new fresh perspectives; and I LOVE it! Not that I don’t love the other treks I went on, but you get the gist.

WHY?

Valley walks are not convoluted. Out in the open, and not shrouded by the trees, the feeling of frivolousness as the sun rays galvanise everything on the open valley was just speechlessly amazing. The heaps of moraine that were left behind when the glacier retreated in the 60s, glistens under the light. It felt like diamond dusts were lightly smeared on the rocks, and if you would to take notice, they really do twinkle as you saunter towards the glacier end (final section of the track)!

You could see people ahead of you and behind. The glacier end is always in sight, so you could roughly gauge how far off were you. Views were not being impeded, and because it is a valley, due to the recession of the glacier, most gravel grounds were of minimal degree of steepness. It was inconceivable how easy the walk was!

The only time when the route got a little steep, and a tad more strength was required, was when we were getting closer to the glacier end. The gravels were loose underfoot, and with the steeper incline, it could get a little slippery. Good gripping shoes during such times were much appreciated.

I like the idea of how we are really minuscule in comparison to the hillsides encaging us; how massive Mother Nature is, and how the towering sides just energises me.

During the walk, we saw parents (fathers), carrying their precious on their backs as they gaited on. I would like to brood over the fact that these parents were incredibly awesome. If it was me, I would have fumbled, stumbled, and probably rolled down the steep gravel hill, causing damage everyone in my path! Haha!

And to see how stable the dads were, going up and coming back down with ease, just makes me want to applaud for their adept balancing and strength. Haha! 😀

We reached the glacier end viewpoint at about sunset. The close-to-evening breeze just calms your nerves and gives your lungs a refreshing renewal of air. And of course, catching our breaths aside, we took moments to just gawk at the glacier ice and moraine. Such an incredible sight it was!

IMG_0345

On the journey back to the parking area, we saw a bunch of children, their Mum and two other travellers huddled near. The kids were in awe by the Kea who was busy being fed by the travellers. The kids ended up feeding the Kea too, with food provided by the travellers. I don’t remember what they fed the Kea with. Judging from the picture I took, I reckon crackers?

And of course, I had to help the Kea take its selfie since it was looking right at me, right?! Haha! 😀

We also had the opportunity to take a good glance at the early 3/4 moon that rose just above the hillside. And it totally added as a nice backdrop ‘accessory’ in the picture, don’t you think so? 😀

Seeing so many things all packed in an afternoon, and considering it was an imprompt trip, I suppose this was such an eventful bonus day well spent!

 

TIPS?

1

Sunscreen

As this valley walk is an open area with no shade from the, at times, inexorable sunlight, slather on sunscreen you must! Skin peeling as the corollary of your laziness to apply sunscreen can look very unsightly in photos, I know… … Been there. 🙁

2

Check For Track Closure

Another tip, which is the MOST important, is to check if the track is close for the day due to ice collapse, flooding or rock falls before you embark on the trek!

You can do so at the local Department of Conservation (DOC) office at Fox Glacier Township, or at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre at Franz Josef Township.

Click for more information on Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre

Fox Glacier Valley Walk is one of the easiest walks for the fairly able- bodies. With dramatic vista right from the beginning, and being greeted by shimmering moraines along the track, you will definitely not return to your motel blasé.

This track, I can safely say with conviction, is a MUST-ADD into your itinerary planning!

So remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

What is a Helihike?

Fox Glacier Guiding Tour Package?

What you might experience?

Will I do it again?

 

What is a Helihike?

Route:

Walking on ice paved by the guide.

Average Walk Time:

~ 3 hours on ice
Difficulty:

🙂 🙂 (suitable for children of 9 years and above)

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

From the portmanteau word, it involves a HELI-copter, and a HIKE. Hence, HELIHIKE! This guided glacier walk on ice takes you into a world of the ever changing glacier transformation with informative mini commentary by the guide!

 

Fox Glacier Guiding Tour Package?

The Fox Glacier Guiding is a company in the Fox Glacier region that provides trips up on the glacier. They have 5 tour options (including the Flying Fox Helihike), of which, not all options bring you up on the glacier.

Because we wanted to try something unique, we chose the Flying Fox Helihike! Not only would we be able to experience the brief moments of flying in a helicopter, we got to have a few hours up on the glacier exploring!

An imperative WIN-WIN! To new experiences- we cheers to that!

The essential summary of the tour package we chose:

Price

Adult: NZD $399 (inclusive of GST)Child: NZD $369 (inclusive of GST)

Duration

~ 4 hours (~ 3 hours on ice)(inclusive of safety introduction, 2 way helicopter flight, etc)
Departure Timings

08 50

11 50

14 50 (only during Summer; October to April)

Reporting Address

Fox Glacier Guiding Building
44 State Highway 6
Fox Glacier

Guide to Customer Ratio

1 : 11

Equipment Provided

a)      Waterproof Jackets

b)      Overtrousers

c)      Socks

d)     Leather Boots

e)      Crampons (given when on the glacier)

f)       Hiking poles (given when on the glacier)

What to wear?

3 – 4 layers of tops and track pants

What to bring?

a)      Sun protection (lotion, sunshades)

b)      Gloves and hat (to keep warm, if necessary)

c)      Water and snacks

d)     Camera

Miscellaneous

Ground transportation to the location for the helicopter flight is provided.

 

What you might experience?

1. Safety Prelude Presentation + Getting Into Appropriate Gear

Upon arrival at the reporting location in Fox Glacier Township, you would be instructed to get your waterproof jacket, if you needed one. And obviously I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to grab anything that could keep me warm up on the glacier.

I reckoned I was the only teeny tiny human in the tour group wrapped in 4 layers of upper body clothing even before going up on the glacier! And to count the waterproof jacket provided, I had 5 layers on me! Looking thick and puffy- it was quite an embarrassing sight! Oh well… 😀

Sounded like I was getting ready for a snow blizzard happening up on the glacier, but it was really because my body was just apt to fail on me, as always. I was adamant to enjoy myself during the trip, so I ain’t letting any cold stop me! Hence, if you are like me, just layer up!

A bus transported us from the Fox Glacier Guiding Building to an area where we would board the helicopter. But first, a mini presentation on safety and changing into proper foot gear (thick socks and boots)!

TIP?!

Wear slippers to the reporting point! As all foot gear will be provided, there’s no point wearing shoes. It is definitely much convenient! 😀

Some prefer to wear their own boots, and it is allowed, however, I would advise against it. You never know if you might get your boots doused in glacier pool during the hike, hence, it is better to wear the boots they provide.

2. Helicopter Flight Onto The Glacier Landing Site

It was my first time in a helicopter, and I was lucky enough to be able to sit at the front; next to the pilot! Taking in the best views of the upper icefall and Victoria Falls, I had an aerial view of the picturesque vistas, which was very much short-lived (approximately 5 minutes flight?).

We were the second group to arrive on the landing site. It was prefect, as this provided a good opportunity for us to get our excitement in check, analysed the terrain, and snapped some shots while we wait for the others!

Before we left the landing site to explore the glacier, we were taught how to tie our crampons to our boots.

Luckily for those crampons, which were initially hard to walk in, to keep me in place, or else I would have ran amok on the glacier due to the excitement of it all. Nah… … Just being melodramatic!

But seriously, the snowy suffused landscape under the sun-drenched afternoon rays and clear blue sky was just so dandy!

3. Hiking- Ice Tunnels, Glacier Water, Ice Gaps & More Hilarious Moments!

Throughout the hike, the guide gave commentaries about the glacier; how the glaciers flowed from its edges carving the landscape into dramatic shapes with their inexorable erosive powers, etc. Or at least that’s what I think she said?? HHhhmm… …

Honestly, I wasn’t paying attention, because every time we stopped as a horde, supposedly to listen attentively to her commentaries, I would be very busy snapping pictures! Wahaha! #inmyownworld

Self-defense time.

I am not usually like this. J, of all people, would know I love listening to commentaries, but this time, however, nothing of what she said went into my brain! Oops.

I remember our very first stop was to enter a little ice tunnel. It was just so invigorating and out of this world! I loved how the cerulean reflected in the tiny tunnel, with the ice ceiling glacier water dripping down on our heads and faces. It was definitely such a refreshing experience!

We were usually the slowest in the group because of us brazenly making quick snaps here and there. 😀 It was to an extent that the all- so- patient guide made us walk close along with her at the front of the pack! But we had our ways to slowly weasel ourselves to the back of the pack again. Haha! We really do sound like a pair of rascals on a school field trip giving the teacher a headache. Sneaky. Sneaky.

The best part of the entire hike on ice had to be us squeezing through an ice gap between tall ice walls. Somehow, the entire process reminded me of the James Franco starred movie- 127 Hours, except this was icy.

First we had to descend down ready made ice steps paved by the guide, and followed her through the ice gap in tandem. Before we advanced, she did mentioned that those who were claustrophobic could give this a miss.

We were the last few to enter the ice gap.

The way to walk through the gap is to place one foot on each side edge and trudged down. In other words, we were walking with our legs slightly open, and there was no platform between our legs. So looking down, it would just be the glacier water streaming. It wasn’t very deep or anything, so even if you slipped and fell in, it wasn’t any issue.

However… If your sunglasses dropped in… Well, now that’s an issue alright. A hilarious one too!

And here’s the dramatic scoop.

So there I was, behind J trying to be as adept as I could. Trudging through, and simultaneously snapping pictures quickly; trying not to hog up the last person behind me. But most importantly, making sure my camera doesn’t hit against the ice walls that were closing up on us as we proceed deeper into the ice gap.

Then I heard an object dropped into the water in front of me, followed by J’s ‘SHIT’ exclamation.

Soon, J was hollering slightly, “My sunglasses. Hhhmmm… Help me!”

The quick current of the water below us had made the sight of the sunglasses long gone. It probably streamed way down to some glacier pool by then. I knew her sunglasses were abjectly gone.

Then, I heard a splash. And a few moments, people at the front were passing the sunglasses to the back as if it was a baton race. Totally comical, as I saw the entire scene from the back. Apparently, the guide had ‘plunged’ into the stream below us to ‘save’ J’s sunglasses. Kudos to her! And shame on J for making the poor guide ‘plunged’ in like that. Tsk. Tsk. Oops! Haha! Just kidding… …

Because ultimately, we all had to ‘plunge’ down as well because the ice gaps were way too narrow for us to squeeze through.

At the end of this segment, our boots were filled with glacier water. Icy cold, my feet were numb, and wrinkled like an old prune.

Thinking back, it was such a dramatic experience that made the entire trip all the more intriguing. And such memories can never be bought. So I have J to thank for such moments of drama.

I mean, it is not every day you see your friend drop her sunglasses into glacier water, and certainly not every day you see the team spirit of passing the sunglasses-baton. Haha! Undoubtedly entertaining!

TIP?

In hindsight, do remember to keep any loose items before entering the ice gap, unless you too want a dramatic experience?

For more experience on Helihike, click on the video!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICJpSJOsmw8[/youtube]

 

Will I do it again?

I would not do this same tour again, as I feel a onetime experience is good enough. Just as bungee jumping is a good enough onetime experience, so is this. (Though I am not saying bungee jumping equates to helihiking, it’s just a comparison. But I suppose you get my point.)

However, if given a chance, I may want to try Fox it Up: Heli Ice Climbing Adventure. We saw people doing the Ice Climb while we were on the glacier, and that looked like fun too!

Another alternative could also be at Franz Josef! I heard the walk on the glacier at Franz Josef is awesome too!

It is all about trying new things! So if you haven’t tried Helihiking, you really should have a go at it for once; either at Fox Glacier or Franz Josef! Hope this is a helpful insight!

Remember to Travel Whenever and follow your dreams!

Dee