We leave Haast not without difficulty because it rains, it rains, and the campsite in Haast is so cosy that we want to stay there for an eternity. The road to the glaciers is rather difficult with 180 degree turns and some work, forcing drivers to wait up to 10 minutes
Part 1: Travel Diaries
Having seen disappointing pictures of the Fox Glacier (covered with dust from the mountains), we decide to see it only from far away. For that, we take the road to Lake Matheson, pass it by 2-3km, on the left, we will have the view on the whole glacier
That is, if the weather is good. The clouds hide everything so we continue until a picnic air and have lunch while waiting for the clouds to disappear. After an hour, we have indeed what we are looking for: a beautiful view on the glacier. From afar, it looks like a huge wave will soon fall on us. We can see very well the blue of the glacier and its irregularities, resembling those of a wave
Very happy with this beautiful view, we go to Matheson Lake
One can take pictures like “postcard” a little everywhere in New Zealand, but especially at the lake Matheson. If we make the effort to make the 1h30 trek, we will be able to reach a view point where Mount Cook reflects perfectly well on the smooth surface of the lake Matheson. Finally, if the weather is nice and if there is no wind. Conditions that we do not have today. We will only do the 45mn round trip walk, very pleasant and very easy (it is even accessible to wheelchairs)
Direction Franz Josef Glacier now, for a 1h30 round trip. Everybody prefers this glacier to Fox Glacier because you can see it better (from the front and not from the side like Fox Glacier), moreover it is white and isn’t covered with dust
The path that leads to the glacier is very easy, even in the rain. It is the longest walk so far in New Zealand, I am proud to have made it. There are 2-3 very accessible waterfalls on the way, if the weather is nice and warm, the tourists will not resist to take a cold shower I think. But the signs are categorical: you must not go away from the marked path, at the risk of getting a piece of glacier or a rock on your head
The glacier is really beautiful but it is very painful, so much it has melted. Before, on foot, tourists could stop at the foot of the Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier, now they have melted so much that only helicopters are allowed for any excursion/exploration of the glaciers. We decide not to pay for the helicopter here but maybe in Argentina where the prices will be more accessible to us (editor’s note: actually no, I just inquired, but for the same price, the excursion in Argentina lasts longer)
After this rather sporting day, we advance as much as possible by car to rest in Ross, the city where the largest gold “nugget” of New Zealand was found. The city counts only 200 and a few inhabitants, most of them are tonight at the Historic Empire Hotel, which also offers parking spaces to the campervans
The bar seems to be frozen in time, with period class photos, period posters, period pianos. The customers, mustachioed, all wear plaid shirts, with boots on their feet. On the kitchen table are “Trucks magazine” reserved for truck drivers. It’s too much like being in the United States and that the sheriff is going to come by at some point. The unpretentious kitchen serves good basic dishes. In this bar where I hesitate for a long time before ordering a tea, for fear of getting a bottle of whisky in my face (actually no, I was even offered 3 cups of tea), there is a very family atmosphere. After their service, the cooks type the conversation with the customers. The backpackers start to break the ice, talk to each other, and… sing. Accompanied by a guitar, a backpacker offers her version of “Like a star”. This inspires another backpacker who borrows her guitar for a remix of Adèle. A magical moment on the other side of the world. All this around a wood fire and a hundred years old decor
Part 2: Practical Tips
- Don’t swim in hot pools near Franz Josef Glacier, it’s expensive and it’s not even thermal water! Might as well go to the municipal pool!
- Instead of sleeping near the glaciers, choose like all the Historic Empire Hotel, cheap, great atmosphere, great food, it’s JB’s favorite bar, and he would have liked to spend a week there
- The parking lots in front of Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier are full of thieves. Take everything with you (wallet, passports, phones), hide your GPS.