Days 236-237 Wednesday & Thursday December 12-13, 2007 – Franz Josef Glacier to Wanaka, New Zealand
We woke up Wednesday morning with the hope that we might still get the chance to hike up to the Franz Josef Glacier. With the realization that this was the only day we had to do this, we headed over to the visitor’s center to see if it was possible. Upon arriving, the park ranger informed us that all of the paths to the glacier were flooded out and very dangerous. Apparently it takes a couple of days after the rain stops before they are safe again. We simply didn’t have the time. With this unfortunate news, we got in the car and began our drive south to the resort town of Wanaka.
While we did anticipate a beautiful drive to Wanaka (we have yet to see an ugly one in New Zealand), the amount of beauty was shocking. Because of the excessive rain of the past few days, temporary waterfalls lined the road and the few permanent ones that we encountered were bolstered by the extra water. After an hour of driving over a handful of one way bridges and narrow roads, we reached the first waterfall along the route to Wanaka.
The Roaring Billy Falls are marked by a sign on the side of the road. A fairly level dirt path leads ten minutes through the bush to a clearing where the falls are in plain view. Fortunately, the falls were very robust because of the rain. While we were impressed, the fact that we had to stand so far away was a turn off and we only spent a few minutes staring at the falls. Little did we know, it would only get better from there.
About fifteen more minutes down the road we saw another sign, this time for Thunder Creek Falls. Without anything of substance on the itinerary for the day, we agreed to stop at as many places as possible along the way. This time the falls were only a five minute walk from the carpark. When we arrived, it was clear that Thunder Creek Falls were a marvel to look at. This time we stayed a little longer before heading back to the car.
After leaving Thunder Creek Falls we started to see more and more waterfalls falling over cliffsides alongside the road. These falls were obviosuly temporary, but this didn’t stop them from being beautiful. Whenever the opportunity presented itself, we stopped just to take in the beauty before moving on. After stopping at several temporary falls we found a larger group, the Fantail Falls and much like before, we hiked down and were in awe of god’s work.
Finally, about an hour outside Wanaka we came to the last hike of the day. This time we took a thirty minute path to the Blue Pools (which were not so blue because of the rain), which are formed at a spot where two rivers meet. Halfway along the path we were excited to come across another swingbridge. This one seemed a bit more sturdy then the bridge we ran into a few days before in Takaka, but given that the river below was raging, it still provided quite an experience. Finally, we arrived at the pools and agreed that they were nothing special, but crossing the swingbridge made the whole experience worthwhile.
After hiking back through the bush and leaving the Blue Pools behind, we hopped in the car for the short drive to Wanaka. Once again, the scenery took us by surprise and we had to stop again a few minutes from our destination. The road into Wanaka winds around the lake of the same name providing gorgeous views the whole way. Before long, we arrived in town and found accommodation for the night. It continued to rain on and off all night, but we did manage to capture a beautiful sunset over the lake.
Wanaka turned out to be a beautiful place, but we didn’t see much that we wanted to do and the holiday park in town wasn’t very nice, so we decided to move on Thursday morning. The only place we wanted to visit before leaving was Wanaka Puzzling World, which consists of two parts. The first part is a section containing several illusions including holograms and a level room built to look tilted at an angle, among other things. The illusion section was fun and it took us around thirty minutes to wind our way through. Just as we waved goodbye to the holograms, the rain started again and we had to wait another thirty minutes before moving outside to the second area.
The second section of Wanaka Puzzling World is a large maze that completely wraps itself around the entire building. This maze is similar to the one we completed in Rotorua. The main exception being the quality, as it wasn’t as difficult as the Rotorua maze, but was in much better shape. The other fact that made Wanaka’s maze a little less appealing was the shear amount of people snaking their way through it. Unfortunately, Wanaka Puzzling World is very popular and we shared the maze with at least one hundred other people. The large crowds detracted a bit from the experience, but it was still a lot of fun!
After leaving the Puzzling World and Wanaka, we began our drive through the mountains to Queenstown. Queenstown is the main tourist destination in the area and the hub for extreme activities in New Zealand, including several jet boat companies and three bungee spots. Upon arriving we noticed that Queenstown looks like an alpine village. While it was nice, we decided to head to the holiday park and forego exploring for a bit of rest. We would have to wait until Friday to see what Queenstown had to offer!
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The Coomer Family