New Zealand Adventures - Part 3
On our fourth night we finally went full on Kiwi and freedom camped - meaning camping in an area not designated for camping, no facilities, must be fully self-contained. We got off of the main route onto a smaller road along the coast and found a small turnout through the beach shrubs and ended up here. It was a fantastic place to camp for the night!
Up the coast a bit were a couple of short hikes that I thought had the potential to see little blue penguins, unfortunately it turned out to be the wrong season, but the walks were still beautiful!
The west coast of New Zealand has two of the most easy to visit glaciers in the world - The Fox Glacier and the Franz Joseph Glacier. I really wanted to see one of the glaciers so we chose Fox Glacier as it was the first one on the route north.
The Fox Glacier, which is fed by four alpine glaciers in the Southern Alps, falls 8500 feet, over 8 miles, to 820 feet above sea level. Its ice is nearly 1000 feet deep and flows around ten times faster than most other valley glaciers. From the tops of the alps it travels through temperate rainforest with its' terminal face about 8 miles from the Tasman Sea.
It was a pretty solid hike through the glacial valley to the point where we could see the glacier face. You can't get too close to it (about 500m away) as the face is very unstable and rock and ice fall occur all the time. But it was really cool to be able to get even that close. It is a massive wall of ice and you can hear rock and ice fall echoing through the valley while hiking. At one point on the hike we could see seven waterfalls and we had to cross a number of little creeks, Piper did a great job!
Our fifth night we stayed at a campervan park so we could empty the tanks and refill our water. It was still a great little park right on the ocean. Our view out our front window was again beautiful blue sea.
The next day visited the West Coast tree top walk, a 65 foot high walkway atop the Rimu and Kamahi tree canopy with a 130 foot high tower from which you could get amazing views of the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea.
Following our treetop adventure we visited the National Kiwi Center. Kiwi's, which are endemic to New Zealand, are nocturnal and very rare, so seeing one in the wild would have been virtually impossible, but Paul and I both realized that we had never even seen a kiwi bird in a zoo. Turns out that, outside of New Zealand, there are less than 10 zoo's in the world that have Kiwi's. So we could not pass up the chance to finally see one, even if it was in a captive environment.
The Kiwi center has a male and a female. Since they are nocturnal they are in a nocturnal house, which is quite dark. To adjust the eyes you first walk through a cave like structure that is full of glow worms, which was pretty cool. Once inside the kiwi house when our eyes adjusted we saw two little critters running around. It was so interesting to watch them, they would call to each other and were very active. Unfortunately no photos were allowed in the kiwi house (it would have been too dark anyways), but the center gave Piper a picture of the male Kiwi as a souvenir.
The kiwi's were great but Piper was even more excited to see all the interesting fish and go fishing for crayfish.
We had a bit of a drive that last day as we were returning our Jucy campervan the next morning and flying from Christchurch up to Nelson, in the northern part of the Southern Island, to meet up with our friends again for some more adventures!
More New Zealand Adventures coming soon!