Extreme Kiwi ecosystems

Queenstown, New Zealand

Our hotel balcony revealed Franz Josef Glacier shrouded in low-hanging clouds this morning. We celebrated our good luck with yesterday’s weather before some French toast in the dining room. After bidding farewell to Count Hostess, we packed up the Toyota for our journey south.

After about 20 minutes, we arrived at Lake Matheson, which didn’t offer the promised spectacular reflective view of Mt. Cook. But nearby, a path of clear blue skies stood over Fox Glacier, the 13-kilometer little sibling to Franz Josef. With our stop at the terminal face, I’ve now visited the only three glaciers — Fox, Franz Josef and Perito Moreno in Argentina — that are located along a coastline, according to New Zealand’s Department of Conservation.

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

We were not up for trekking again (still aching from the day before) so we continued onward to Haast, a town hugging the Tasman Sea coastline. Between the water, sky and crashing surf, it felt like we had stumbled upon a tropical paradise.

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

Over the Haast Pass, the terrain rapidly changed as we passed Mount Aspiring National Park, with its snow-capped mountains towering over cattle and sheep grazing on verdant, rolling green hills.

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

Beyond sat majestic Lake Wanaka, with its shimmering blue waters and undeveloped lands.

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

Just when we thought the setting could not get any more spectacular, we climbed the Cardrona Pass and entered the arid, brown desert hills.

DSC_0035

We completed our 400-kilometer journey in Queenstown shortly thereafter, slamming into the curb before turning into the parking lot of our hotel, the Queenstown Park. The modern exterior blended into the hillside while the lobby overlooked a nearby rugby pitch.

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

The owner showed us to our spacious twin room, which was simple and warm, with cool bedside control systems for the lights and shades.

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

Our room looked out on the Skyline Gondola, so we decided to take the trip as the sun started to set. From the summit were fantastic views of this city of just 9,000 residents — in a location and surrounding that could be tough to top.

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

DSC_0035

At the hotel’s suggestion, we ate at Fishbone, a casual yet delicious seafood restaurant on the downtown mall. Funny enough, we had visited all of the local sources of our dinner: Havelock (green-lipped mussels), Nelson (scallops), Greymouth (Hoki and prawns).

Sitting back afterward, we reflected on our day that had started at the base of a glacier. Five hours later, we had seen just about every extreme ecosystem New Zealand could throw at us — mountains, lakes, deserts, oceans and forests.

What an amazing country this is.

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: