Tag Archives: south island

New Zealand: Greymouth to Christchurch by train

9 Aug

From Franz Josef we headed north along the coast.  We drove past a lot of farms and my mom insisted on pulling over on several occasions to take photos of sheep.  Eventually we reached the ocean again, which made for yet another cool but gloomy photo op.  Here are some pics from the drive up.

Our shitty front-bumperless rental car.  It really is a miracle it got us the whole way:

Our reason for driving to Greymouth was to board the TranzAlpine scenic train to Christchurch.  As its name suggests, the train runs through the mountains and provides some spectacular views.  It was a pretty cool way to finish up our trip.  We talked to some nice Aussies on the train, had scones with jam and cream for the last time, and got to see some more snow at a place called Arthur’s Pass high up in the mountains.  The train stopped so we could play in the snow, but the novelty had definitely worn off for me by that point, so I snapped a few photos and returned to the warmth of the train.  I didn’t get many photos over the course of the journey because it’s difficult on a moving train, but here are a few.

We got in to Christchurch that night, then flew out early the next morning to finally head home.  So that’s all for New Zealand!  It was a good trip and I got to see the highlights of the south island.  I would, however, love to go back during the NZ summer and preferably stay for a couple of weeks.  It really is a beautiful place and I hope to one day (soon?!) have the opportunity to explore it again… in the sunshine.  Until that day comes, this is all I’ve got for you guys.

Only one more post until I retire this blog!  Check back within the next few days for that!

New Zealand: Franz Josef Glacier

7 Aug

Franz Josef was easily my favorite part of the trip. I have always wanted to see (preferably touch!) a glacier, both because I happen to think that they are awesome and because I believe that within my lifetime there won’t be many left.

The drive from Queenstown to the town of Franz Josef was… interesting, to say the least. We asked the receptionist at our motel if we would need tire chains and she said that there were two ways to get there: one that would definitely require chains, and one that would not. We opted for the no-chains route and set off.  Everything was fine for the first hour or so, and then it started raining right as we entered the mountains.  In about five minutes the rain had turned to snow and we came very, very close to getting stuck in our crappy two wheel drive sedan.  It was about that time that we started wishing we had brought some chains along after all.  In the end we only spun out once and it all ended up alright, thanks to some impressive driving by my mother while I had a minor panic attack in the passenger seat.  Soon we had reached the west coast where I was thrilled to see the ocean for the first time on this trip, and just after it got dark we arrived in the tiny town of Franz Josef.  Here are some shots I took along the way.

We came to Franz Josef for a half-day glacier hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides.  They outfitted us with everything we would need- waterproof jacket, waterproof pants, boots, wool hat, wool socks, wool gloves, and crampons- which was nice because otherwise we probably would have died up there.  I know I keep saying things like this, but the weather was ATROCIOUS on the day we did our hike.  It was windy and raining cold, unrelenting rain that occasionally turned to hail.  It was so bad that they cut back all of the full day trips to half day trips and some people decided that even that was too much.  We had a few people drop out of our group before we left.  Their loss, really, because the glacier was truly awesome.  We had to walk about a mile or two to reach the base of it, then we spent a good three hours hiking around on the glacier itself.  I would have loved to bring my nice camera but the weather definitely prevented that, so here are the photos I managed to get with my waterproof, shockproof, freezeproof point-and-shoot (which can be found here in case anyone is interested.)

Before…

Inside of a glacial cave:

After…

Also, just in case you don’t believe me about the weather, here’s a short video I shot on the hike back to the bus from the glacier.  (Warning: it’s kinda loud.)

So that was Franz Josef.  So worth it, even if by the end we were wet and miserable and had multiple blisters.  One great thing about the tour we did is that it includes free entry to the glacial hot pools in the town of Franz Josef- the perfect way to recover from a glacier hike.  We hit the hot pools, ate an early dinner, drank some wine, and passed out.  The next day we headed north to Greymouth for the last leg of our journey, which I’ll talk about in one last NZ post, because I feel like this one is long enough as it is.  Check back soon for that!

New Zealand: Milford Sound

4 Aug

My mom and I used part of our time in Queenstown to take a day trip to Milford Sound.  The tour we chose to do included a 4 hour coach ride to and from Milford Sound, plus a two hour cruise.  It was a long day- we had to be on the bus at 7am and didn’t get back until well after 7pm- but it was worth it.  Milford Sound is a fjord, meaning that it was carved out by a glacier and is now filled with water.  It is known for its dramatic cliffs that rise up out of the water, making it a pretty breathtaking place.  Unfortunately for us, the day we went there it was cloudy and raining (like it was our entire trip) so we didn’t exactly get the full experience.  It wasn’t all bad though; it turns out that rain creates hundreds of temporary waterfalls along the cliffs, which was pretty cool.  Here are some photos, starting with the first one we took on our cruise… which is probably my favorite pic from the entire trip.

DOLPHINS:

The drive between Queenstown and Milford Sound took us through some high-altitude mountain passes, and it happened that by the time we drove back the rain had turned to snow up in the mountains.  The driver pulled over so that we could all play in the snow and my mom and I got the sense that a lot of people on our bus had never seen snow before (which is not that strange in Australia/NZ.)  It was kind of adorable to see them all running around and throwing snowballs at each other.  It was also cool to stand in the snow and think that one week before that moment I was in the humid, tropical heat of Thailand and one week later I would be back home in equally humid, even hotter Virginia.

That’s all I’ve got on Milford Sound.  Check back in a few days for a post about Franz Josef glacier, then it’ll be time to retire this blog for good.  I hope everyone is having a great summer!