West Coastin

by Johnny

After a beautiful drive from Wanaka and through the Haast Pass we arrived to New Zealand’s West Coast, a region with over eight percent of the country’s land mass but less than one percent of its population.  And we thought the rest of New Zealand was uncrowded.  Our first stop was the tiny township of Fox Glacier, located in the shadows of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman (NZ’s second highest peak) and surrounded by endless acres of farmland…dare I say, one of the most gorgeous settings of anywhere we’ve been in New Zealand?  We chose to stay in Fox Glacier as opposed to the more visited Franz Glacier because here it’s possible to hike to the glacier’s terminal face if you don’t want to fork over the bucks for a guided tour on top of the glacier.  Perfect for us, since we plan on spending our remaining funds on massages, yoga classes and fruity drinks in Indonesia.

We only had one full day to explore the area, so we were thrilled when we woke up to a picture perfect sunny day without a cloud in the sky…much different weather than the last time we tried to see Mt. Cook from the other side of the Southern Alps.  We set off early for a walk around nearby Lake Matheson, highlighted by Mt. Cook’s mirror-like reflection in the lake’s still waters.  After a quick coffee break, we headed off to hike to the terminal face of Fox Glacier.  I’m gonna keep it real with you…glaciers just don’t really do it for me.  I appreciate their power and endurance and the way they’ve shaped the earth as we see it today, but to me they just look like muddy blocks of ice.  Give me a waterfall or raging river any day of the week.  Call me old-fashioned, but I like my beer cold, my music loud and my bodies of water flowing.  Next we drove along a gravel road to an old gold mining settlement at Gillespies Beach.  Now, I think it’s pretty cool when you’re on the corner of Jamboree and PCH and you can see the snow-capped San Bernardino mountains in front of you and Balboa Island behind you, so I was blown away by Gillespies Beach.  Here we were on a New Zealand beach with the sparkling blue water of the Tasman sea in front of us and a crystal clear shot of the imposing Mt. Cook behind us.  Pretty awesome.

Walking path around Lake Matheson
Mt. Cook’s perfect reflection in Lake Matheson
Another view of Mt. Cook from our walk around Lake Matheson
Hiking to Fox Glacier Thar she blows!
At the terminal face of Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier from a different point of view…not a bad spot to be a cow
Gillespies Beach Tasman sea on one side…
…and Mt. Cook on the other
Mt. Cook in the late afternoon
Enjoying our last hours of sunlight in Fox Glacier

After an action-packed day exploring the area around Fox Glacier, we headed to our next stop on the West Coast, Hokitika. I’ll be honest…this might be the most forgettable place of our entire trip. This town makes Modesto look like St. Tropez. The grey weather combined with the empty streets and the eerie driftwood sculptures on the beach made us feel like we were in the setting of a Stephen King novel or something. However, we made the most of our time here with a trip to the nearby Hokitika Gorge, a whitebait pizza (a local delicacy) at Fat Pipi’s and a nighttime visit to the glowworm dell.

Hokitika Gorge The color of the water was incredible
Making Anna nervous
Good ol’ Hokitika
At least the pizza was tasty The local whitebait pizza

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