[image:395,left][image:397,right]If yesterday belonged to the Elves, then today it was Orcs and Men. We departed our motel early, driving past the townships towards our first stop, Franz Josef Glacier. Throughout the morning, Howard Shore’s music for the Fellowship of the Ring and The Two Towers provided an appropriate soundtrack to the scenery outside. As we drove up the gravel road to the glacier the sight of dead trees eerily combined with the Mordor sounds of The Prophecy from the car speakers.
[image:405,right]Despite the frequent short showers we walked up through the damp forest steps for a distant view of the Franz Josef glacier, the first that either of us had seen.
[image:414,left]About 25 kilometres south of Franz Josef is a second, and more spectacular glacier, Fox Glacier. Here, we were able to walk up from the carpark almost to the base of the glacier. Temporary waterfalls fell from fog shrouded valley walls, forming rivulets into the main flow from the glacier. We stepped carefully across the moonlike rocks until we reached the blue ice face of the glacier. It was as if we were on another world.[image:412,right]
[image:426,left][image:428,right]When we returned to the carpark we found a pair of kakapo. Then it was south along the coast, under a strange sky[image:428,right]. Hungry, we stopped at a salmon farm on the right of the highway. There we had the most fantastic comfort food. Rich, cheesy, creamy smoked salmon pasta and a salmon chowder with hots bread and washed down with Lemon & Paeroa. I still dream of that meal.
[image:432,left][image:433,right]After crossing the single lane bridge across the mighty Haast river we turned left along the southern bank and began our second crossing of the Southern Alps. The sky had turned ominously dark, the mountains menacing, the tight, winding roads a struggle to climb. Suddenly, the Haast turns into a raging waterfall and we are at the pass. Then the spell is lifted, the sun returns and we have entered the most beautiful of lands.
[image:442,left][image:447,right]In the images above you can see the difference between the two sides of the range, looking along the Makarora River. Then the river opened out into Lake Wanaka and we were left speechless with its beauty, silently mouthing “Wow” over and over again. Surely, it wass the most beautiful of sights and we were saddend when the road turned away from the lake.
[image:451,left][image:456,right]Sad, until another lake appeared before our eyes, Lake Hawea, and we could not believe that we had found something more magnificent then Wanaka. Our breath was taken away by the grandeur and the scale of the scene before our eyes. Incredible.
[image:459,right]Eventually, the road returned to the shores of Lake Wanaka and to the township of that name. There we decided to take the scenic “shortcut” via Cardona to Queenstown rather then the highway. After driving through damp glacial forests and lake scenery, we were surprised by the dry grassland of this winding route. It was stressful driving and we were surprised to see a tourist bus parked at a lookout near the end of the drive. Grateful for a chance to rest, we pulled over for a scarily high view of Queenstown from above.
The last few kilometres of the drive were the worst, with many blind and narrow corners without side barriers, accidents waiting to happend should an incautious party be on the road. It was with great relief that we made it to flat land.
The nights accommodation was at the Viking Lodge Motel in Arrowtown, a historic gold-mining village on the outskirts of Queenstown. The A-frame units were very cosy and another new experience for us. With evening yet to come we set off into Queenstown proper to explore.
Neither of us liked Queenstown much. There were tourists everywhere, the whole city centre seemed tourist oriented with lots of adventurewear shops. Fortunately, the stores were open late, so we had our first chance to engage in some New Zealand shopping, but were rather underwhelmed by the experience.
Lake Wakatipu, on whose shores Queenstown lies, is rather pretty. We took an evening stroll along the shores, photographed the steamer which runs tourists around the lake, then returned back to the motel for a well earned rest.