Saturday: Splat splat splat… I awoke to the sound of torrential rain. As heavy as it had been yesterday afternoon. Yet somehow it isn’t as bleak as yesterday, maybe because we’re leaving. Actually, I awoke to the sound of what I can only describe as ‘massage music’, the kind of bamboo pipe sounds you’d hear at a spa (and the rain).
We’re heading past Westland national park, where both Franz Josef and Fox glaciers can be found, before reaching Matheson lake – our first pit stop of the day.
We’re driving past Mount Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand, but we can’t see it because of the low lying cloud. We also passed the fox glacier and didn’t see that either. We stopped at the lake for an hour and a half. It rained the entire time, and knowing how long we have left ahead of us, I opted to stay on the bus for the first time.
Driving along the west coast, past Bruce Bay. I imagine it’s fairly spectacular on a clear day, with the mountains to the left and clear ocean views to the right. As usual, my eyes are fixed on the sea optimistically hoping to spy some wildlife off in the distance.
Ship Creek, part of the UNESCO world heritage area.
Haast and the Haast Past, next to Haast Glacier and Haast peak all named by a German, after himself. This is the area where the remains of a giant Haast eagle was found, the same one that became extinct after the Moa was hunted to extinction (see my earlier Zealandia blog post for more information on this).
National parks have been established in order to provide a safe place for wildlife including birds. Birdsong used to fill the valleys of New Zealand but now you only hear it at these specially designed places. We’re in the heart of mount aspiring national park!
Thunder Creep Falls! Standing at 28m high.
From here we’re heading through the mountain pass, it’s pretty steep! 534m above sea level to be precise. The rivers can rise rapidly during typical Wild West Coast weather. Apparently a few years ago, there was a particularly bad storm which caused a tree avalanche. This is similar to a landslide, the only difference is that there is very little soil which causes the trees to interlock and tumblr down together.
Goodbye Wild West Coast! Hello Otago!
Today we were told it would be a long driving day. It has been, but it also hasn’t. We have stopped every 45-60 minutes for this or that. While it was raining this morning, this was annoying and now, as the day progresses, I feel myself getting grumpy at the prospect of continually stopping.
I think it’s because I’m worried my bus dates may have been altered as my Deep South leg was. There’s no reception out here, so I can’t call to check. I know I need to be more present and appreciative of this moment.
Wanaka lake is stunning. It’s the 3rd largest on the South Island, and the 4th in the whole of New Zealand. The deepest part of the lake is 350m because of the way it was created by glaciers. Originally, Wanaka was named ‘Pembroke’ by early Welsh settlers, but the name didn’t stick and it was reverted back to the name of a previous Maori chief.
Wanaka is beautiful. It’s so peaceful. It reminds me more of Switzerland than of Scotland from the town side if I’m honest. I’d love to get a cabin here and retreat with my faves. I think this is my favourite place I’ve been to so far on the kiwi experience adventure. It’s so peaceful and calming.
Oh. And just to clarify. There are no dolphins in the lake as my guide said… I definitely did NOT spend all afternoon scanning the lake and then embarrass myself by asking the local ice cream parlour if they have them 🐬🐬🐬🐬🐬