We road tripped it over to Fox Glacier. Trying to fit everything in, we ended up doing two back to back days with 5 hour drives (from Christchurch to Fox Glacier, and from Fox Glacier to our next destination). We made it work and made sure to get enough sleep; however, it was a LOT of fairly taxing driving.
Driving in New Zealand is different. Everyone drives on the left side of the road, weather can change frequently, most of the roads are two lanes (with an occasional passing lane), one lane bridges with varying right of way rules, and incredibly winding roads. Making a lot of stops to take pictures at places like these helped:
The Driving Essentials
Our handy driving kit was a must have. It includes:
- iPhone vent mount (Kenu Airframe) – for easy navigation
- Auxiliary cable – to play music and podcasts from our phones
- Car phone charger with 2 slots and 2 cables
- Podcasts and playlists
Sam came across a podcast called Hardcore History by Dan Carlin. He has some free episodes and series available, and this has been our go-to for the long drives. Very informative, and a unique storytelling approach to a lot of major historical events! On this drive we listened to the King of Kings series, which is about the Persian and Greek empires and the wars they fought.
On one of our stops in a random parking lot, we saw our first Kea in the wild! They are smart, and incredibly mischievous (cheeky as they say here). Kea even work together to solve objectives. Our Fox Glacier guide mentioned people have put a log on their trash bin outside to try and keep Kea out. Sometimes a single Kea will get some of their friends to help push the log off to get at food in the bin.
Feeding Kea is strongly discouraged here. It teaches them they don’t need to forage for food themselves, and people often feed them things that aren’t part of their natural diet. Feeding Kea causes them to get increasingly curious around people and the human environment. There are a lot of stories of Kea doing things like pulling the rubber off car windshield wipers! Joseph got this picture of this curious Kea on someone else’s car mirror.
You can do the terminal face walk without a tour group for free. We opted to going with a guide company, and they had a lot of interesting information to share! The company we went through was Fox Glacier Guiding. We chose the terminal face walk, which is a hike to see the edge of the glacier. The only way to get onto the glacier these days is by helicopter and ice climbing. Fox Glacier Guiding has options for helicopters and climbing as well, and they provide the equipment.
After arriving at Fox Glacier Guiding’s headquarters, we put on socks and waterproof boots and watched a quick safety briefing. Our group hopped on a bus for a quick ride over to the glacier area. Our Scottish guide told us glaciers create U-shaped valleys; whereas, rivers create V-shaped valleys.
We learned a few other interesting things too:
- It rains about 200 days of the year here!
- The glacier has been receding, and you can only get on it by helicopter now.
- The reason the river water appears gray is due to finely ground rock (aka “rock flour”).
- New Zealand has over 3,000 glaciers on the South Island, and about 6 on the North Island. Fox Glacier and Franz Josef are the easiest to access in New Zealand.
- There are only 2 endemic (native) mammals in New Zealand and they are both types of bats.
- New Zealand is one of only 3 places where the glacier terminates in a rainforest.
Some photos of our glacial adventure:
The Lake Matheson Hiking
Lake Matheson is well known lake in the town. If conditions are sunny and cloudless with no wind, you can take a mirrored picture. The lake reflects the mountain range in the background. It was rainy, cloudy, and a little windy when we went there, so we only got a lake picture with no mirror this time 🙂