Saturday, 18 February 2012

New Zealand Day Twenty Three – Arrowtown and Fox Glacier

After two nights in one place it was time to get back on the coach and say goodbye to the buzzing, hilly Queenstown.  As soon as the cases were loaded we were on our way to Fox Glacier, stopping on the way at the small goldmining town of Arrowtown, though to describe it as a town probably gives the wrong impression.  It was more of a village with more tourists walking down the main street than residents at the place. It was pretty and I am guessing there were lots of nice walks in the surrounding mountains.
We drove through very mountainous, barren landscapes and then suddenly the scenery changed and we saw wineries and lots of fruit farms, stopping at one to taste the cherries, apricots, kiwi fruit and a selection of dried fruits.  Of course I couldn’t resist buying as well, I can’t survive without fruit and my supply of apricots bought in Dunedin had been eaten a few days ago.

Our next stop was at the Thunder Creek Falls to see a waterfall high in the rocky mountain face.  As we got back on the coach we saw another attraction across the road but this one wouldn’t be found on any tourist map.  A couple of middle aged ladies, wearing bright pink tops had paused in the bush.  One was acting as lookout while the other disappeared into the bush.  I’m not sure who was the doziest – the lookout for not warning her friend she was in full view of a coach load of people, or the lady caught short for not finding a bigger tree.  We, however had a splendid view of her rather public convenience and waved at them as we pulled out and drove past just as she was pulling up her white shorts.

Still laughing, we drove over the Haast Past and followed the Haast river to the Glacier.  It is quite sobering to see the markers where the glacier reached a hundred odd years ago, fifty odd years ago and now.  It is retreating too quickly and one can’t help wondering if our abuse of the planet is hastening the glacier’s disappearance.

Because some people were booked onto helicopter flights over the glacier and had a set time, we couldn’t have as much time as I would have liked to walk up to near the edge of the ice.  We were told the walk takes an hour but were only given half an hour there.  Four of us set of at a cracking pace and made it there and back within the allotted time and even managed to take photographs.  It was definitely worth the exercise to get that much closer.

I had imagined the ice to be white or grey but there was a lot of turquoise blue interspersed with the white and it really is a river of ice.  Also I hadn’t expected the area around to be made up of so many grey stones. Nor did I think the surrounding area would be covered in rainforest.  It was also warmer than I had imagined and I didn’t even need the extra jacket and gloves.

Once we’d dropped of those who were doing the flight we went to the hotel.  Dinner was a sit down, three course meal  (I might need two seats on the plane home) and afterwards our tour guide, Marty, brought his guitar to the lounge and we had a good laugh singing along to his playing, accompanied by our resident drummer, Paul alias the driver, playing the stainless steel salad bowl.  It was fun. A few of us stayed chatting once the jamming session was over and then moved to the pub when the bar shut.

Hard to believe tomorrow is our last day of travelling and seeing the sites.  The month has gone very quickly; too quickly.

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