The West Coast, Fox Glacier, Franz Josef, Pancake Rocks and Abel Tasman
11.02.2010 - 18.02.2010
From Queenstown we drive north along the picturesque west coast, taking in beaches covered in balanced zen like stones, kea parrots keen to peck at our car and plenty of kiwi warning signs, but no kiwis alas.
There are two glaciers along the way, the Fox Glacier (mint!) and Franz Josef Glacier. It's a bit of 'spot the difference' job between them. They're impressive though, huge waves of ice cutting through rocks far down below the mountains. I now understand galaciers better too, thanks to the information signs. One big difference between sights we've seen here and in Asia is that much more is explained to you here. In Asia, even when there is a tour guide there, they often don't know how natural wonders, Halong Bay in Vietnam for example, were formed.
Further up the coast we pass Punakaiki, famous for its pancake rocks. We must have been here close to pancake day, yet we failed to have pancakes! They're named as such as the rocks have formed in a way that looks like a pile or pancakes. We visit at high tide, when you're treated to a show from the sea. Blow holes appear through the rocks, where the pressure from waves coming in forces air up. The waves crash in to the caverns in the rocks creating a huge noise. Dramatic stuff.
At the top of the North Island is Abel Tasman National Park. We get a boat along the coast up the park, passing one lone tiny blue penguin swimming along and a seal colony with crying seal pups. We're dropped off on a beach, where we walk back along the coast for four hours or so. Possibly the longest walk we've managed in New Zealand, which is pretty impressive considering how many people come here for walking, or 'tramping' as the kiwis call it.
It's very pretty, the beaches are reminiscent of Thailand, with crystal blue waters and greenery covered steep sides. It's absolutely teeming with ferns too, I understand why the fern is a national symbol for New Zealand now, they have plenty of them!
We finish the North Island with a few days in Nelson, before hopping on a 3 hour ferry to cross the Cook Strait to Wellington in the North Island.