Greymouth to Queenstown
09.12.2013 - 15.12.2013
The west coast of the South Island is a rugged, dramatic affair and the site of many a shipwreck. Greymouth is usually just a stopping off point for the train, but it has some impressive views and I borrowed a bicycle from the hostel to explore a little. On a clear day you're supposed to be able to see Mount Cook from here, but seeing as Greymouth never really has clear days this could just be a ruse to lure in tourists. Just to the north are the bizarre and as yet unexplained pancake rocks.
I headed south along the coast to glacier country. First stop Franz Josef, which descends from the Southern Alps towards the Tasman Sea. Its terminal face is rapidly receding, meaning the ice is now inaccessible except from helicopter, but the view from the ground is still impressive and despite knowing it would be, I was still stunned by how blue it was.
Heading further south, Lake Matheson is commonly known as mirror lake, but sadly it wasn't playing ball when I walked around it.
Fox Glacier next and despite the drizzle the walk was certainly worth it as you can get much closer to the ice here.
Next through a rainy Haast Pass and along Lake Wanaka to Queenstown, home of the worlds first permanent bungy-jump and where youngsters come to dress up and get trashed. Alternatively you can take the cable car for stunning views of turquoise Lake Wakatipu, before walking up Ben Lomond for more breathtaking scenery.
Of course the real reason for staying in Queenstown, apart from the legendary Fergburgers, is to access Milford Sound, the name disguising the fact it's actually a fiord (the Kiwis seem to insist on the 'i' rather than Scandinavian 'j' spelling). It rains 200 days a year here and I'd picked one of them, but this means the ephemeral waterfalls were on show and did little to diminish the majesty of the rock faces, carved by long-gone glaciers. The seals didn't seem to mind either.
Craving some peace, I left the excesses of Queenstown behind and headed deep into Southland.