Queenstown to Nelson, South Island 7 March 2006

Hi everyone! Sorry for the long delay in updating my travelogues here!

Friday (March 2), Karen and Phil and I drove over the mountains north out of Queenstown to the small community of Fox Glacier. It was a lovely, relaxing drive that took about 8 hours, including all our stops for photos and lunch. Luckily, Phil is almost as much of a camera nut as I am. We could see many of the same mountains I had seen before, from different perspectives, and then many new ones as well – all are incredibly rugged and ragged-peaked, with long, sharp jagged ridgelines and shiny granite faces, sheared by glaciers.

We dropped down toward the rain forest on the coast, and saw many more waterfalls (though not nearly as many as during the rain on the Milford Track), carved out of the ravines and rocks. There were also many bikers, with all sorts of support from none (big panniers on their bikes) to small vans, to big vans, to busses for entire groups cycling around NZ. When we arrived in Fox Glacier, we could see Mt. Tasman, but Mt. Cook was hiding behind clouds just beyond the ridge, but it came out in the sunset and was beautiful. As the highest peak in NZ, it can be seen from so many places!

I said goodbye to Phil and Karen on Saturday morning and took the bus (yep, mom, using my FlexiPass) all the way up the west coast to Nelson – an 11-hour ride, but very beautiful. It reminded me very much of Maui with its rugged, winding coastline and fascinating rock islands and formations just offshore, covered in tropical plants. We passed an area where the bus driver says that small blue penguins leave early each morning to fish in the sea all day, and return late at night – I have a photo of the warning sign to watch for them on the road, but have no way to load it at the moment! He said these are the only known penguins to spend the entire day in the water – I sure wish I could have seen them.

We had two longish stops during the day – one at Hokatika where a great deal of carving of pounamou (greenstone, jade) takes place; it was fun to shop there (and we could see Mt. Cook again in the far distance). The second was at Punakaiki Rocks, also known as the Pancake Rocks – what an amazing place, and I can’t wait to show you the photos.

I arrived in Nelson, situated just outside the very popular Abel Tasman National Park along the beach on the north bay, at about 8pm, and the bus driver (of Intercity, a national company like Greyhound) actually dropped folks off at their hotels, bed & breakfasts, etc! I was last, and stayed at another lovely place where I learned that the owner actually works for EDS. I was very sad not to be able to spend more time in Nelson – it is the wine growing center of NZ, and an artists’ colony, and driving into town along the beach with the sun going down over the mountains and turning red on the bay, has the loveliest houses and gardens spread over it’s mildly hilly terrain (like Lake Barcroft) that I have seen in NZ, very colorful and most are like cottages.

Anyway, I had a 7:30 am flight to Auckland, and it was a funny morning – when I got up and was ready to go, I couldn’t find the light in the dining room to eat the breakfast they set out for me the night before so I ate in the dark, and then realized it was too dark, and discovered the inn’s clock was an hour too fast, so I had gotten got up an hour too early!