We have seen much in the last few days. Our last day in Nelson (where we rested after the Abel Tasman Walk) was spent taking in a movie, In Bruges (really good and really bad, all in the same movie) at the local cinema as buckets of rain poured down from the sky. We had stayed in Nelson for three nights and we needed to move on despite the weather.
Even though we moved on that day, we traveled less than 100 km to the Nelson Lakes National Park with the intention of taking a couple of days to fish (John) and hike. Thankfully the weather lightened up and we only had rain off and on during our time there. It was a good couple of days at Lake Rotoiri. We took a nice, leisurely walk around the lake, stopping periodically for John to try his hand at reeling in a brown trout. He nearly caught two. The first fish gave a good fight before stealing John’s lure and swimming away, but the excitement of it was almost as good as if he had actually brought it to shore. The second took the lure, but was able to break free. John doesn’t consider himself a fisherman so just getting a fish on the line was enough. He also got some tips from a Canadian fishing guide who was fishing at the same lake. The guy even let John have a try at fly fishing (I’m sure this will be a new challenge to take on when we get back home).
The scenery was beautiful and we began to see why some people describe the South Island as so spectacular. The Nelson Lakes are off the normal tourist route, which is a little surprising because of how beautiful the area is. One strange thing we saw at the lake was a sign at the end of the dock that said you could not fish for eels. When you peered over the edge you could see 20 or so 4-5 feet long eels. Interestingly, we learned that it takes eels 90 years to be mature enough to spawn. Thank goodness it doesn’t take humans 90 years to reproduce. Could you imagine rearing a child at the age of 95?
From Nelson Lakes we drove west toward the Tasman Sea. The coastline here reminded us of the Northern California coast–rugged beaches and bigger mountains right off shore. Pancake Rocks was a stop that came highly recommended (thanks, Robby!) so it was a must-see. We were not disappointed. The Pancake Rocks are a series of limestone formations that look like a bunch of hotcakes stacked on each other. To this day, scientists don’t have a good explanation for their unusually flat formation.
FRANZ JOSEF GLACIER
Stunning, spectacular, fabulous, beautiful, gorgeous… we couldn’t decide which word to use and we probably said them all as we spent a day seeing all the different angles (except for the helicopter close up) of the Franz Josef Glacier. The day started with a near 4000 foot ascent to Alex’s Knob (not sure what a knob is exactly, but they are all over the place here). This hike had three lookout points. The first two gave us [please fill in with superlative from above] views of the glacier, Mt. Cook, the Southern Alps, and the Tasman Sea. The third lookout was at the end of the hike, or knob, and by the time we arrived the clouds had moved in and you could barely make out the glacier below. Regardless, it was still a great hike and we were able to catch the first two views again on our way down.
We got back to the car and ventured on to explore the glacier, up close and personal. The signs at the end of the cement warned that you were free to cross the barrier, but it was at your own risk. The real debate was whether or not we wanted to take our socks and shoes off and cross a glacial river to get a closer view. We decided to go for it. We got about .5 km away when we had to start climbing up through the bush. At that point we decided we had enough, considering the hike we had just completed and how tired we were. We set off back to the car and were casually walking along (as casually as you walk through a boulder field). Next thing we knew John and our camera were on the ground. A huge rock had shifted beneath his feet and threw him off like a bucking bronco. Erin was sure he had broken his tailbone the way he came down. After checking him out, he had just a slight sprain on his left foot and the camera was still in tact with a few new war wounds. Neither injury was significant, thankfully, but John will be using his walking sticks (trekking poles) for the next couple of days.
HAAST PASS TO WANAKA
Our Servas hosts’ told us the Haast Pass was one of their favorite spots on the South Island. When we started from the town of Haast it didn’t seem like much, but as we journeyed through we understood why. This was probably one of our favorite passes so far in New Zealand. Not only were there great views but also some really great spots for skipping and diving rocks. If you are not familiar with rock diving it involves throwing rocks up in the air and trying to get them to go in the water with very little splash–similar to Olympic platform diving. There is also a tone that you are going for that can be best explained as a deep “thunk”–you’ll know the sound when you hear it. Hours of fun to be had with rocks (John, his brother, Pete, and cousin, Derin have spent many an hour rock diving together).
We are so glad for digital cameras, otherwise the last couple of days would have broken our budget in the amount of film used–we figure it would about 16 rolls (24 photos per roll) worth, and that doesn’t include the photos we deleted! We have narrowed down the field to our favorites and they will be on Flickr soon.