Our travels continue towards the Pancake Rocks, but not before we went on a small recommended hike alongside a river in a canyon. The cool thing about this hike was the everchanging environment. At first it felt like we were walking in a tropical rainforest, palmtrees everywhere, then it seemed more like a fairytale forest and lastly it resembled the forest of Beetsterzwaag. Next thing on the list were the Pancake Rocks and Blowholes. There are several theories about the origin of this natural wonder, however for us it was just wonderful to behold! Our overnight stay was at the campground of Empire Hotel in Ross where we had an reencounter with Josh and Matt from Gentle Annie’s (the campsite we stayed before). We had a fun night, drinking some beers with them in our pyjamas at the local pub, while listening to 80’s music from the Jukebox.
While driving to one of the places we were really looking forward to (Franz Josef Glacier!), we stopped at a beautiful spot for lunch. Just as we were getting back to the car, a guy from the helicopter flights approached us with some interesting offers. It was a rare beautiful day with a complete blue sky and we managed to get something more off the price. A spontaneous decision was made; WE WERE GOING ON A HELICOPTER FLIGHT! Just the decision already thrilled us, 1 minute later we sat in the helicopter with our headsets on, grinning from ear to ear. The flight was stunning. We had breathtaking views over the Southern Alps, Mt Ellie, Tasman Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, Mt Tasman and Mt Cook. Meanwhile the pilot informed us about the surroundings, but flabbergasted as we were, we didn’t hear a thing. We only realised how immense it was when we saw a trampers hut on the glacier, putting the size in a whole different perspective. Full of adrenaline we took a rest at a lake near Franz Josef (the village). However it wasn’t peaceful for a long time. Soon a van full of Chinese people arrived ‘secretly’ taking pictures of us from behind a sign. Then they got bolder, trying to have a conversation with us while others were making pictures. Eventually, it turned into a proper photoshoot which was a bizarre but hilarious experience. All of this gave us some great stories to tell Jakob, with whom we met again. Together, we went on an adventure, looking for glowworms in the forest at night.
While making some toast, Mirte got the recommendation to do a quite unknown hike of five hours which got you really close to the Franz Josef Glacier! Jakob was too tired to join us, so at 11 o’clock the two of us took off, fully prepared. We loved the diversity of the hike, challenging us with steep, rocky walls, slippery river stones, stairs alongside a cliff and multiple of our beloved swing bridges. The view at the top was even more amazing. We were rewarded with a bright blue sky and an even brighter glacier. This must be one of the best lunches we will ever have. Our next spot for the night was well known Gillespies Beach. After dinner we looked at the sky, glowing pink over the wild sea. Perfect sunset for a perfect day.
“Avondrood water in de sloot”. A Dutch expression which came true. As beautiful as the sky was yesterday, it was nothing alike anymore. Rain was pouring all night and it stayed the same during the day. The grey sky didn’t stop us from going to the Fox Glacier though. Actually the moment we were there, the rain had stopped and the clouds caused a mysterious image. We made some amazing selfies, turning some heads, and afterwards we went for fries and pie at the cafe. Lake Matheson was also recommended, however it just looked depressing due to the depressing weather. We hope it will get better soon, but it’s West Coast weather so we are not surprised.
Because we had a long journey ahead, we took a couple of breaks. First of which was at the Fantail Falls. It turned out to be a beautiful spot where people erected a lot of cairns. Of course we also participated and climbed the waterfall before we headed on to Haast’s blue pools. After 7 hours of roadtripping we finally arrived in Hawea where we stayed for two nights. After the free campsite, we were really happy to see a kitchen again. We made full use of it by making a magnificent curry according to Jakob’s recipe.
The weather still wasn’t great, nevertheless we enjoyed ourselves by watching a movie and go on a small walk alongside lake Hawea. Because we made curry for ten yesterday, we could eat it again today. However, this time we had homemade tortillas to go with it. They were the best we made so far.
In contrast to yesterday, today was super active. We started with a 3-4 hour hike to Rob Roy’s glacier. The way there was already a whole experience on its own. We’re referring to the amazing environment and scenic views, but also to the horrific road leading there. Not only was it bumpy for 24 km, but also we had to cross rivers (fords). It was totally worth it when we started hiking though. We could see the glacier every now and then, but were still totally surprised when we reached the lower lookout and realised how close we’d actually gotten. It was even more impressive when we reached the upper lookout. Breathless we tried to take the multiple roaring waterfalls, the immense glacier, the beautiful valley and the bright colours in. While eating our lunch in the sun, we suddenly heard a rumbling noise. It turned out to be an avalanche! It was amazing to experience this with the three of us. After this we decided to be real tourists and took a picture of New Zealand’s most photographed tree in lake Wanaka. It really was a picture perfect tree :). Then we went on a restaurant hunt to find the perfect one for the goodbye dinner in the evening. We made a reservation for 8 o’clock, quickly set up our tents in Albert Town and did a quick freshing up before we went to Francesca’s Italian Kitchen. The food was amazing! Too bad the waiter thought we were frauds and fiddled with our passports because of the Dutch design (the design of the year is different from the month and day). So no housewine 😦 Nevertheless, the evening (and the day) was a huge succes.