The Wild West

On our second day of driving, Melissa and I headed further down the West Coast. The weather turned a bit dreary, but it seemed to fit with the lush, wild landscape.

After a couple hours, we took the turn for Fox Glacier. I’d been to both Fox and the nearby Franz Josef Glacier on a weekend trip from Canterbury years ago, but really, can anything this epic get old? The rain luckily let up as we parked at the foot of the walking path towards the glacier.

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Everything was even more grandiose than I remembered. The sheer size of the cliffs was mind-blowing.

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We didn’t make it too far before we reached a rope and a sign that said the path beyond was closed due to rockfall hazard. “If you want to get a closer look at the glacier, you can pay to do one of our tours,” read the sign. Nice.

We posed for some shots, which look as if we’re in the corner of a wrestling ring. This pose would become one of our favorites during the road trip.

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The problem with this spot was that you couldn’t even see the glacier face. We didn’t have much choice but to turn around.

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On our way back, we decided to take a detour down into the glacial valley and towards one of the many impressive waterfalls cascading down the enormous cliffs.

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Finally, Fox Glacier came into view! It had receded drastically even since my last visit just over six years ago.

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The waterfall itself was well worth the rocky scramble.

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Ready. Set. Pose!

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We made our way back to the car and headed towards the “highway,” which in New Zealand is usually only ever a two-lane road.

The rain began to pick up again, but we had to stop at the swinging bridge that I remembered from my last visit.

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These bridges are all over New Zealand, and they’re so much fun.

As often happens here, I found myself questioning if this was reality and not just a fantastic dreamscape.

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Boy, do I stick out like a sore thumb!

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Melissa bravely decided to take the wheel and drive on the lefthand side for the first time in New Zealand. She did great!

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We continued on, but soon got pretty hungry. Luckily, we passed a sign for a salmon farm/restaurant in the middle of nowhere. It turned out to be AMAZING.

Full and ready to head toward Wanaka, we hit the road again. Soon, we began to climb up into one of the most awe-inspiring national parks in New Zealand, which is saying something, Mount Aspiring. This enormous swath of temperate rainforest, rushing rivers, waterfalls and enormous peaks is named after NZ’s second-tallest mountain, surpassed only by Mount Cook. It may not be Mount Cook itself, but at least it is Aspiring to be. I love the names here, like the mountain range outside Queenstown called The Remarkables. Kiwis just tell it like it is!

I had to drive really slowly so I could look out the window at the sheer awesomeness unfolding around me. The peaks reached up into the sky, and around every corner we passed thundering waterfalls right beside the road. I had to stop when we came across this one.

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There were so many pull-over spots and trailheads along the way that you could definitely spend at least a week in this park just exploring.

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With the goal of making it to Wanaka by nightfall, we had to be selective with the spots we chose to stop at. It was extremely hard when everything looked like THIS.

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When we passed a sign for Fantail Falls, which was only a short trek from the roadside, we had to check it out.

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The green river was unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and people had built little rock towers all along its shores.

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After getting back on the road, we soon found ourselves back amidst rolling farmland as we got closer to the shores of Lake Wanaka and the winding road that would eventually take us to Wanaka itself.

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Here’s a map of our drive, to put everything in perspective.

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Wanaka and its insanely gorgeous foliage will have to wait for the next installment. Stay tuned!

4 thoughts on “The Wild West

  1. Fantastic, Kelsey! You are an excellent tour guide in a country loaded with extraordinary scenery. I really felt like I was driving along with you and Melissa while reading this.

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    1. Wish you could have been! It was such an amazing road trip.

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  2. So many waterfalls, so little time. Even the weather seems so familiar, the mist, the low clouds. But all beautiful just the same. What a great road trip for you and Melissa. And, as usual, stunning pictures. Can’t wait for Wanaka. It was one of my favorite stops.

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    1. Yes, the low clouds and mist just seem to add to the dreamlike beauty of the landscape. You won’t be disappointed with Wanaka!

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