Gorgeous South Island

A view from our campsite near Te Anau. Absolutely stunning. 

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Up the West Coast

After our lovely day in Franz Josef, we spend the next two days slowly winding up the beautiful west coast. We weren’t able to fully appreciate it’s beauty because it was teeming rain the whole time, but we did have a great stop at the famous pancake rocks, where we had to run through the gale, taking out our camera for pictures and then quickly waterproofing it again.

While the scenery we could see was breathtaking, the most exciting part of our west coast adventure was when we were trapped in the parking lot of a grocery store with a dead battery and we watched an elderly man beat in the window of a car to save a baby who had been locked in. Thrilling!

The west coast definitely had it’s own special charm and beauty. A very small population of New Zealand’s already small population lives there, and the passes through the mountains are often closed in winter due to snow and ice, so it had an isolated and remote feel to it. We drove for hours without passing any thing but sheep and mountains. In short, exactly what you would expect from New Zealand. It was a little sad because we knew it was the last chapter of our journey with our faithful van, but I think Scott was excited to finally sleep in a real bed.

 

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New Zealand’s Weird Food: Pies

I suppose pies aren’t specifically a New Zealand food, but they sure are popular there! We were just excited to to eat something with delicious pastry, a rarity in Japan.

Scott is a little embarrassed by this picture, as he is a few days into the “Great Beard Experiment 2011”, an enterprise brought on half by curiosity, and half by the necessities of living in a van. Ultimately it was not a very successful venture, but this pie was delicious.

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Franz Josef

New Zealand really is the best country for geography nerds. Many countries may have the same interesting topographical elements, but I can’t imagine that any country has them all so close. In one day we drove through a rainforest, from the beauty of the Fjordland national park to the base of a glacier. Amazing.

After a quick stop at the excellent visitors centre, we drove as close as we could to the glacier, ate some peanut butter sandwiches and went for a hike. First stop, Peter’s pond, which was created when the glacier retreated and left behind a large chunk of ice. It used to be much larger, but has shrunk over the years, and will soon disappear.

After stopping to check out all the striations, erratics, and moraines, we reached the foot of the glacier.

We couldn’t, as the signs made sure to remind us, go any closer, without taking a guided tour, but it was surreal just to see an actual glacier up close.

As we left, I couldn’t help but think that this would be a much better grade nine geography field trip than the dump… Too bad we don’t have one in Waterloo.

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Puzzling World

After an exhausting day trying to keep up in Queenstown, we headed to Wanaka, which was one of our favourite stops on the trip. Wanaka was everything we wished Queenstown had been, beautiful and peaceful, without the oversupply of was Puzzling World, near Wanaka, an attraction which includes a giant maze and an illusion museum. Yeah, we know, nerdy!

It was so much fun! First you can enter the illusion room where you can learn about famous optical illusions and even create a few yourself.

On to the tilted room, which is at a 15 degree angle, and it threw us off more than I thought it would. Along with a busload of german tourists we watched amazed as balls rolled uphill, water poured up a slope, and we even rode a slide up a ramp. Even though I knew why everything was happening, it was very discombobulating.

The best part of Puzzling World is the Giant Maze. Located outside and around the museum, it is an intense challenge. You start in the middle and have to find your way to four towers in a specific order, which was much more difficult than I assumed. Scott and I raced each other through, and it took the winner (me!) over 40 minutes to complete the maze.

This was one of the few attractions we paid to see, and it was worth it. We spent at least 3 hours hanging out in puzzling world, and I would go back and would win again!

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Wonderful Wanaka

Lake Wanaka: we spent a pleasant afternoon here paddle boating and drinking coffee here. Absolutely gorgeous!

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