We are now in Franz Josef which is famous for its glacier. Queenstown was far more beautiful than we were expecting, set on Lake Waktipu (3rd largest in NZ), near the Remarkable Mountain Range. Our room in Rydges wasn’t so picturesque and we questioned if we had been booked into the janitor’s closet. With a broken ironing board, no hooks for towels, a burning shower and the use of a bible to block the door open to get some air, we informed reception and were upgraded to a more suitable room – this time with a lakefront view. The weather was varied on our first day so we decided to take it easy. After checking out Queenstown, we headed to nearby Arrowtown which is a town established at the time of the goldrush. It was quaint but has had a modern revival. We walked around the mainstreet, checked out the visitor centre, walked around Mary MacKillop’s cottage and learnt about the Chinese settlement which has been archeologically investigated.
The next day we headed to Glenorchy for a wilderness safari on the Dart River. This consisted of a bus trip from Queenstown to Glenorchy (approx 50 minutes), a 75 minute jetboat ride on the Dart River to Paradise and back and a 40 minute wilderness walk in the local beech forest with a return journey by coach that included locations used in films such as Lord of the Rings, Chronicles of Narnia and Vertical Limit. This adventure was most enjoyable and certainly allowed us to take in the spectacular scenery of the region. Upon returning to Queenstown we went up the gondola and participated in luging. We had tasted this in Rotorua and knew we each needed at least three turns on the 1km long track. Spectacular views from the top over Queenstown included watching AJ Hackett bungee jumping!! We then went to the Canyon Swing office to book our jump for the following day only to be told that no spaces were available for the next two days – obviously we weren’t meant to participate in such adventure sports.
Yesterday we travelled to Makarora via Wanaka and Puzzling World. The 3D maze kept us amused for about an hour as we found our way to the various corners and then out again and the illusion rooms played with our heads. The tilted room was particularly bizarre with water running up hill, a billiard ball rolling up hill on a billiard table and steps that went up even though they were going down. Our accommodation in Makarora was at a wilderness resort although the term resort is stretching the imagination. It is the closest thing to the Wild West that New Zealand can offer. However, the nearby Blue Pools were well worth a visit.
Today we travelled via Haast Pass to Haast and up the west coast to Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. It was raining most of the day but the rain brings spectacular waterfalls so what we missed out on in terms of scenery, we made up for by some spectacular waterfalls crashing down beside the road. This afternoon we walked to look at Franz Josef Glacier and tomorrow we are booked for a helicopter ride and 2 hour walk on the glacier.