Category Archives: Glaciers

Fox Glacier to Rapahoe Beach-Day 11

Lake Wanaka to the Glaciers and Beyond- Day 12

After emerging from the long road to Rob Roy we drove down the entire length of Lake Wanaka, which got less and less inhabited, and stopped at Boundary Creek for this late afternoon view.

View of Lake Wanaka from Boundary Creek Overlook
View of Lake Wanaka from Boundary Creek Overlook

We were traveling up towards the Haast Pass, following the river valley, and  pulled into the Makaroa Camp as night fell. There were a fair amount of hikers but none of them seemed very friendly.

Makaroa Holiday Park Kitchen
Makaroa Holiday Park Kitchen

The kitchen/ dining building was a  great space  and the showers were appreciated. I cooked up some Ramen noodles with fresh veggies thrown in, had a glass of wine, and went to bed.

Butterfly Falls
Thunder Creek Falls

In the morning we packed up and started up the valley to the Haast Pass.

 

Clouds Hanging On the Southern Alps at Haast Pass
Clouds Hanging On the Southern Alps at Haast Pass

The clouds hugging the peaks looked cold but it was nice and warm in the valley.

Cold Water and Warm Air Equals Fog in Valley
Cold Water and Warm Air Equals Fog in Valley

Melting Glaciers and snow pack from the mountains up ahead make for some seriously cold water. This valley floods in a big thaw but we are past that time now.

 

The Road Through the Mountains Narrowed
The Road Through the Mountains Narrowed

We climbed the last peak and everything started to flatten out, the types of trees changed and we crossed the Haast River one last time.

Another One Lane Bridge
Another One Lane Bridge

We appreciated the clear  signage on all the single lane bridges. This one means those on the left heading towards the coast must stop (small red arrow) and yield to those coming at them Big Black Arrow). This was a rare bridge with a lay by in the middle in case you got caught out there.

Windswept Coastal Vegetation
Windswept Coastal Vegetation

The West coast loomed up suddenly and the trees changed again, into salt tolerant layers that leaned away from the wind.

Tasman Sea at Tauperikaka Marine Reserve
Tasman Sea at Tauperikaka Marine Reserve

The sky cleared off as we followed a walking trail through the dunes and reached a white sandy beach covered in driftwood.

The sand turned to pebbles as we walked North towards the point.

Tauperikaka Beach
Tauperikaka Beach

This beach was formed by runoff from the glaciers as they retreated into the mountains behind here. The stones on the beach have many different origins and have been worn smooth by first glacial grind and then ocean wear.

Ship Creek Meets the Tasman Sea
Ship Creek Meets the Tasman Sea
Glacial Beach Pebbles
Glacial Beach Pebbles

This whole area is now a Marine Preserve and a small kiosk at the car park tells of finding bits of wreckage of an old wooden sailing ship, the Schomberg, lodged in this creek.  The ship went down in 1855 just shy of Melbourne Australia, and parts of it floated 2000 km east, across the Tasman sea, to land here.

Next stop is at Fox Glacier, about 2 hours North.

Avalanche Debris on Way To Glacier
Avalanche Debris on Way To Glacier
Warning Sign at Fox Glacier
Warning Sign at Fox Glacier

You don’t need to be able to read to know what this means. Glacial runoff can be quite unpredictable.

The Long Walk to What is Left of Fox Glacier
The Long Walk to What is Left of Fox Glacier

The glacier has retreated so far that it is a long walk up to it theses days.

Fox Glacier-Further Than It Looks
Fox Glacier-Further Than It Looks

The glacier creates its’ own weather and there is a cold head wind blowing off it as we walk in. The ground is all gravel wash.

End of the Trail At Fox
End of the Trail At Fox

This is as far as you are allowed to go without a trained guide and special equipment. People die trying to get too close. Look at the tiny mouth of the drainage in the distance, zoomed in below. People actually try to get in there even though it is constantly collapsing.

Closeup of Ice Cave Drainage Under Fox Glacier
Closeup of Ice Cave Drainage Under Fox Glacier

Even Jeff was not tempted to do that.

Looking Back at Last Climb With Sign That Says-"Don't Stop for Next 400M! Rocks Falling"
Looking Back at Last Climb With Sign That Says-“Don’t Stop for Next 400M! Rocks Falling”

By the time you decide to visit here, the glacier may be totally gone. The only way to see what is left these days is by helicopter. They fly by every 15 minutes and are  loud and obnoxious.  You might want to arrive before they start flying for the day, or be in the helicopter yourself.

The next Stop is at Franz Joseph Glacier.

We are greeted by a sign.

No Bikes, No Drones
No Bikes, No Drones

After walking down the trail to where it crosses the river, we get another sign.

Trail to Franz Joseph Closed Due to Flooding and Storm Surge
Trail to Franz Joseph Closed Due to Flooding and Storm Surge

So much for that. We drive back out to the coast, go over yet another single lane bridge…

Pretty Red Steel One Lane Bridge
Pretty Red Steel One Lane Bridge

…and arrive at Rapahoe Bay Holiday Park , a private oasis set up in an old one room schoolhouse right on the beach. It is run by a woman who lives in a tiny building connected to the camp who obviously loves to garden. She has a handyman on site as well. There is nothing fancy or upscale about the place but it is  welcoming , restful and full of charm.

Rapahoe Camp FlowerBed
Rapahoe Camp FlowerBed

Our site was tucked away in a corner and surrounded by tall green hedges with a wild sort of path through the shrubs onto the beach.

Private Pathway to Rapahoe Beach
Private Pathway to Rapahoe Beach

It was only a few steps through the brush to reach the pebble beach.

Stepping Out to Rapahoe Beach
Stepping Out to Rapahoe Beach

The entire beach is covered in super smooth grey rocks, which makes me think that the sea is really rough here and it might not be such a great place to swim, if it was warm enough, which it is not.

Stormy Sky Over Rapahoe Bay
Stormy Sky Over Rapahoe Bay

The school house has a well outfitted kitchen, easily set up to share pots and pans and all kinds of hanging utensils. We join the other folks in there and get to talking as we cook. One woman is by herself and this is the first time she has ever gone “camping” or even away by herself. She is hesitant to join in the group conversation but warms up after awhile.

One woman of a couple has stories to tell about being the 111 operator in Christ Church during the big earthquake a few years ago. She tells us that if we knew how limited the emergency services on the South Island were we would not want to come. She had to pull help from anybody she could think of to get people help. If she knew somebody with a good tractor or a chainsaw or a winch, she lined them up. Friends with 4 wheel drives became ambulances, people who knew somebody with a helicopter got called in. She ended up leaving her job because of the stress, 12 hour shifts, and low pay, and is much happier now. But she says just about everybody quit and now help gets routed through the North Island and they don’t know any neighbors who can help down here.

There were nine of us at dinner, sharing tables to eat. The ex 111 operator brought out a homemade banana cake and shared it all around. We sat, drank wine and talked until way past bedtime.

The sound of ocean waves on the loose stones rocked me to sleep.

Next Post- Pancake Rocks and beyond.

-Wendy lee , writing at edgewisewoods

 

Milford Sound to Rob Roy Glacier-Day 8-9

Milford-Day 8

As we leave the Divide Parking area and Keye Summit track, we turn towards Milford again, and see the solid rock mountains we have to drive through to get there. This area is often inaccessible in the winter months due to snow and avalanches. The government  has an avalanche monitoring program and they sometimes they set charges via helicopter to bring them down with some degree of control.

Heading Towards Milford From The Divide
Heading Towards Milford From The Divide

The road has signs declaring the need for chains and warnings saying not to stop in avalanche zones during the winter months. Like if you didn’t stop, you could outrun an avalanche…

The Milford Road Hits the Mountains Dead On
The Milford Road Hits the Mountains Dead On

The Homer Tunnel is coming up, which a hardy group of men bored through the solid rock mountain between 1930 and 1952 , having stopped construction during WWII.  It is a long one lane tunnel and we have to wait about 20 minutes for the light to tell us when it is safe to go through from our side. This light does not work after dark and I would not want to wonder if someone was coming. We do it in daylight. While we wait, Jeff has to go snow caving in the last of the snow.

Snow Cave Near Homer Tunnel Entrance
Snow Cave Near Homer Tunnel Entrance

If you look close at the picture below you will see the tunnel mouth we have just come through.

Looking Back At the Homer Tunnel
Looking Back At the Homer Tunnel

Then we stopped for a short walk up The Chasm and we caught a Kea bird  in the process of taking the gasket off a rental car’s windshield. He could smell some candy left on the dash through a window that was cracked open, and he wanted it badly.

Kea Bird Trying to Breaking Into A Car
Kea Bird Trying to Breaking Into A Car

The Chasm was an easy walk in a deep and narrow gorge with a rushing snow-melt river that would eventually empty into Milford Sound.P1120290

There were views along the trail of the gorgeous mountains.

Window on Chasm Trail
Window on Chasm Trail

When we got to the foreshore walk in Milford, the sun was getting low, the temperature was dropping, and it was windy.

Milford Shore
Milford Sound From the Fore Shore
Milford Waterfall
Waterfall At Milford

It had been raining lately, so there were waterfalls on the fjord. We were glad we had done the boat ride across Lake Manapouri and Doubtful Sound so we were satisfied to just gaze on Milford from land. We started heading back the way we came towards the Homer tunnel again. we stopped just before it and another Kea came and visited us.

Kea checking Out Some Velcro on the Roof
Kea checking Out Some Velcro on the Roof

After stopping at various waterfalls on the way, we pulled into Knob Flats to spend another night and enjoy the wonderful hot showers.

In the morning we got a late start and as we headed down and out the valley we saw all kinds of buses headed in, so that was a good thing. For some reason we kept seeing  Chinese tourists taking pictures of their young teenage daughters jumping in mid air whenever we passed a view point. It was strange. Normally we saw them taking selfies on a stick.

We knew we had finally left the park when there were green meadows and sheep everywhere again.

Sheep
Sheep

We passed clean glacial lakes with, I hear, some huge fish in them.

Glacial Lakes Everywhere- Devils Staircase Lookout
Glacial Lakes Everywhere- Devils Staircase Lookout

We are heading in the general direction of Queenstown, but as we get there we realize it is not our kind of place at all. It looks like a touristy shopping frenzy, so we drive right through it and go up a loop road behind there, stopping at Arrowtown instead. This is a very small, old gold mining town, much quieter, although still touristy. We did the museum, which was well put together in an old storefront, checked out one shop and had an ice cream cone before leaving.

We are looking forward to hiking to Rob Roy Glacier tomorrow. On the way though, we come across the first commercial Bungee jumping operation in the world and have to check it out. With photos, not jumping. I have no desire to put my back to that test, ever.

Bungee Jumping Bridge
Bungee Jumping Bridge
Bungee Rescue Raft
Bungee Rescue Raft

Apparently you can specify how far down you want to go when you bounce. One of the options is right into the water. At least it’s clean and they have a rescue raft ready.

Into the Naked Hills
Into the Naked Hills

We start seeing acres of Kiwi and Cherry Orchards under bird netting, and vineyards in the valleys.

Getting Closer to the Mts
Getting Closer to the Mts

We ended up at Lake Wanaka for the night, in an ugly campground on the hill overlooking the lake  and lots of wind. We did not have high hopes.

Sunset at Wanaka Camp
Sunset at Wanaka Camp

Our parking spot was right next to the kitchen  and shower block, so at least we did not have far to go.

Ugly but Serviceable Wanaka Camp
Ugly but Serviceable Wanaka Camp

Surprisingly, while we were eating our dinner, we met a foursome consisting of two Brits and their French girlfriends who were camping in tents across from us. They shared their wine and we told stories to each other until almost midnight. It was a blast. In the morning we all went our separate ways, ours to Rob Roy.

Our English and French Friends at Wanaka
Our English and French Friends at Wanaka

We didn’t do anything at  Lake Wanaka itself, although there were flyers all over the kitchen bulletin board of all the local activities. New Zealand has some wild ideas of what fun is. There is Canyoning, which is throwing yourself down narrow whitewater canyons and hoping you emerge with no broken bones and still breathing air, for one. Then there are lot of jet boats on freezing cold water, jumping out of helicopters on skies, ice climbing, you name it. I would not have wanted to do some of these even when I was much younger.

As we drove towards our nice calm glacier hike, the  hills were getting bigger and serious mountains with snow caps started to appear again.

Up the River Valley Towards Rob Roy
Up the River Valley Towards Rob Roy

We drove, and drove…the road turned to gravel…we drove through the creek nine times. There were sheep in the meadows and waterfalls coming down the sides of all the hills. The weather was perfect for a hike. And it wasn’t even windy.

Road Turns to Gravel and Crosses Creek Nine Times
Road Turns to Gravel and Crosses Creek Nine Times

Some of the creek crossings were pretty deep and splashed over the hood.

Creek Crossing
Creek Crossing

Most of them were fairly shallow. Finally, it was time to abandon the car and start hiking on this beautiful day. We loaded up our packs with food and water and headed up the trail.

Start Hiking
Start Hiking

There was a well built bridge over the river. A lot of folks hike this trail but it was not at all crowded on the trail and there were only cars in the parking area, no buses.

Nice Bridge
Nice Bridge
Bridge Over River
Bridge Over River

The trail starts climbing up the side valley and we take our first breather at the view over the main valley below.

First Breather, Looking Up Valley
First Breather, Looking Up Valley

We keep climbing. Rob Roy’s elevation is at 8,672 feet so we have a long ways to go. There is a glacial blue stream rolling over boulders on our left and layers of clothing  are coming off as we steadily climb through shady forest.

Side Stream Waterfall
Side Stream Waterfall

We emerge out of the woods into clearings for great views of where we are hoping to go.

Headed up Rob Roy Trail
Headed up Rob Roy Trail

Every now and then we hear what sounds like thunder or maybe an explosion, which is a little scary. We start thinking about avalanches. There are signs periodically telling you how to react if there is one.

Rob Roy and Waterfall
Rob Roy and Waterfall

We finally come out into a wide open boulder field and see a thousand foot tall waterfall and Rob Roy behind it. That is when we hear another BOOM! and we see chunks of glacier calving off. It echos throughout the canyon for a good while. It is no danger to us since it is still so far away and on the other side of the gorge. It seems much closer until you try to hike to it.

Flowers
Flowers

It is the beginning of summer and there are wildflowers about. I think this plant is in the Ranunculus family.  We stop for lunch at the end of the normal trail where there are about twenty people scattered about sitting on boulders and soaking up sunshine. There is a good view of the waterfall, the creek below, and the glacier, which is way across the gorge and still  much higher than us.Where Rob Roy was Calving

Where Rob Roy was Calving

About once an hour  chunks come off and bounce down the rock face with a powerful deafening sound.

We want to get closer to the main glacier, further back the valley, so we find a tiny remnant of path and continue up hill.

Tiny Path
Tiny Path

We have to wade through chest high gorse, and climb boulder trails, but it is a beautiful day so we don’t mind. We have finally gotten used to hiking and climbing after doing it so much,  so it has gotten much easier.

Boulder Crevasse
Boulder Crevasse

The rock is a granite schist and comes in all kinds of colors .

Made It! More to Go Though
Made It! More to Go Though

We keep climbing and climbing without seeming to get any closer to the top, but every little bit is a new milestone.

About as Far As We Went
About as Far As We Went

We finally stopped when we realized that we could see just about all of it just over this rise. The glacier is obviously shrinking each year as a lot of them are these days. We made a little cairn of rocks to mark our spot, took some photos and headed back down the nonexistent path.

Walking Back Down From Rob Roy
Walking Back Down From Rob Roy

It was going to take us a long while just to get back to the marked trail.

COLD Water Coming Off the Glacier
COLD Water Coming Off the Glacier

So of course we had to hike down to the water to see just how cold it was before going back up to meet the main trail. I think it was actually colder than ice water.

Looking Back at Rob Roy

Looking Back at Rob Roy

It is kind of amazing how far you can hike and still never reach the top.

Pointing to Where We Climbed Off Trail
Pointing to Where We Climbed Off Trail

 

Sheep crossing the creek
Sheep crossing the creek

After we made it all the way down to the wide river bottom in the main valley, we took a footbridge, while the sheep tip toed through the creek.

A Ewe with her Twins
A Ewe with her Twins

Notice one lamb’s banded tail has dropped off while the other is still holding on. We occasionally found some of these dropped tails while hiking…

According to the GPS, we had hiked seven and one half hours and did 12.9 miles with an elevation gain of only 1840 feet. No wonder we never reached the top. It was a great hike though, and we went further than most people do. After we got back in the van (and took our boots off!) we started back out the gravel road and came across these Kayakers that had just been dropped off by an outfitter. You would not want to fall into this cold water. They had a short trip, as we saw the outfitter waiting for their arrival ,down the road just a few miles.

Kayakers
Kayakers

The next thing we came to was cows wandering around in the road.

Cows in the Road
Cows in the Road

Then we reached pavement and there were sheep all over the road.

Sheep walking down the road
Sheep walking down the road

Then Elk which were fenced in…P1120887Finally we got back out on the main road and ended up getting to a camp in tiny Makaroa as night fell.

Thanks for reading and commenting on my blog. I want to share as much as I can without boring anyone to death.

-Wendy lee, writing at edgewisewoods

 

 

Mount Sunday to Tasman Glacier-Day 4-5

New Zealand Trip- Day 4

This morning, while laying in bed, we watched a pickup truck drive all the way across the wide river bed to the railroad tracks on the other side. He had to zig  all over the river bottom in search of crossings shallow enough for his truck. When we finally got up and opened the sliding van door we were met with a such a horde of sand flies ( giant gnat like things with huge teeth) trying to beat their way into our camper, that we high tailed it out of there without even making coffee first.

The plan for today is to go see the Tasman Glacier at Mount Cook National Park , stopping at interesting  places along the way. Rakia gorge is an easy first stop along the road with no hiking needed for the views.

The second stop is way down a  long, mostly gravel road, something like forty six  kilometers, to hike around on a small hill called Mt Sunday,  aka: “Andorras” ,  surrounded by huge mountains ( one was “Helms Deep”) and glacial rivers.

The Road to Mt Sunday
The Road to Mt Sunday
"Little" Mt Sunday with BIG Mts in Back
“Little” Mt Sunday with BIG Mts in Back

There were only a few people there ahead of us and we pretty much had the place to ourselves, with some cows and sheep wandering about for effect.

Sheep Leading the Way
Sheep Leading the Way

The Mt Sunday hill looked small until we started climbing  it which took about 40 minutes and it was quite windy at the top, making our pant legs flap and snap like sails. The surrounding mountains looked huge and seemed close, but it would actually take days to hike into them. The sun was warming our little spot on the hill and it was a beautiful place to spend time just sitting there taking it all in, watching the weather move around in the peaks.

View from Top of Mt Sunday
View from Top of Mt Sunday

On the way out, there was an entire herd of cows being moved down the road into a new pasture, using cattle dogs, pickups and people on foot. It was like swimming through cows as we drove slowly through.

P1100533

We have noticed all the houses and farms have above ground water tanks and there are palm trees growing in all sorts of places, mixed in with eucalyptus and pine trees. It must not get very cold in the lower elevations of the South Island. Looking it up on a plant hardiness zone map  it seems to be mostly Zone 8, which  averages lows of -5 to -10C , or 12 to 20 degrees F, in the mountains and then zone 9 on all the coastal edges. I don’t think this takes into account the elevational changes in the big mountains though. In the eastern panhandle of West Virginia, we are in Zone 6b which gets a lot colder, with the average annual minimum being 0 to -5 degrees F, or about -17 to -21 degrees C.  which is why we don’t get palm trees or giant tree ferns at home.

Single lane bridges abound, in the wide river valleys, posted with signage as to who has the right of way. It seems to be that heading upstream you usually give way to folks heading downstream. You cannot always see if there are people coming at you or not from the far side, and you have to go on faith. Sometimes there are lay-by’s in the middle. We are glad we are here in the (just barely) off season. A whole line of tourists could make these bridges kind of scary. Right now all we have to avoid are the sheep…and a few cows.

As we drive further away from the mountain ranges and again head south, the terrain progresses into fairly level farm land, with alfalfa fields and newly planted Kumara (NZ sweet potatoes). We start to pass incredibly  large, aluminum piped,  irrigation setups and then some giant rubber lined ponds that seem to be for warming up and settling out the seriously cold mountain runoff. We are on the “dry” side of the mountains, although maybe since summer is just starting, it does not seem all that dry yet.

We arrive at Lake Tekaupo, with beautiful (although invasive) lupines blooming everywhere, gorgeous turquoise blue water, and snow capped mountains in the distance.

Lake Tekaupo. Lupines
Lake Tekaupo. Lupines

The Tasman Glacier is up ahead, further than it seems, because the mountains are so big in the distance. It looks like storms are brewing up in there but here, the water in the lake is intensely turquoise blue and the sun is shining.

Road to Tasman Glacier
Road to Tasman Glacier

Once we actually get all the way up the valley, the hike to the actual glacier turns out to be further than we are willing to go, especially since the clouds have gathered and it is now cold and rainy, so we don our rain gear and settle for climbing up a steep, stair step path for a view of the glacial pond and morraine dam at the closer end of the glacier. As with most glaciers these days it has been retreating for many years now and will soon be gone.

As we leave the Tasman valley, the glacier, and supposedly a view of Mt Cook, is completely socked in, but the sun slanting under the clouds lends even more color to the landscape around  lake Pukaki.

Lake Pukaki in Tasman Valley
Lake Pukaki in Tasman Valley

We settle for the night in nearby Twizel, ready for another day.

Tuesday Day 5

The hedges, the hedges. There are evergreen tree hedges everywhere (both leafy and needled) and about 30 feet tall, shaved on the sides to make them only a few feet wide. They are between every field and somebody has to go around trimming these things. It looks like a steady job.

Hedges Everywhere
Hedges Everywhere

We are now heading for the coast to check out the Moeraki Boulders. It is weird how sheep pastures have seaside views in New Zealand. There is so much coast and so few people that even ocean front property is farmland right down to the water. Sheep at the beach. I suppose if the water was warmer, people would flock there instead.

Moeraki Boulder Beach
Moeraki Boulder Beach

The boulders are ancient concretions that have been washed out of the sand dunes where they were buried eons ago. Some of them have cracked open revealing the different layers of stone.

Inside a Cracked Boulder
Inside a Cracked Boulder

Next we came to seals sunning themselves on the rocks. Lots of seals. And giant kelp swirling around.

Seal with Giant Kelp
Seal with Giant Kelp

Next, we have to drive through an actual town, Dunedin (pronounced doo NEE din) on our way to an Albatross colony and penguins. It is a city with the University of Otago, and a busy harbour and shipping port. We do not stop, although we get turned around on a road detour and end up at a castle accidentally. The gardens looked promising but it was closing time by then so we found our way back to the road.

Harbour at Dunedin, Otago Peninsula
Harbour at Dunedin, Otago Peninsula

Albatross are huge birds that look similar to seagulls and they fly right over your head very fast, so it was hard to get a good photo of one.

Otago Light ans Albatross Cliffs
Otago Light and Albatross Cliffs

Albatross and gulls were flying around the lighthouse and zooming by right over our heads at this spot. We could see seals and dolphins and diving water birds down in the water and there were flowers blooming all around the cliffs.

It was getting late so we started south again  looking for a camp for the night.

Please share and comment if you can. It is nice to know you are out there reading this.

Wendy lee, writing at edgewisewoods.com