(Scenic helicopter ride over Franz Josef Glacier)
Picking up right where we left off yesterday, the Huz and I kept driving down the west coast of New Zealand's South Island. We made it to Franz Josef where we had scheduled a glacier hike. We would take a helicopter to reach part of the glacier. At the last minute the hike was cancelled due to high winds and we were so bummed!
(Franz Josef Glacier)
We decided to see if any of the scenic helicopter rides were still running and they were! We ended up flying over the Franz Josef Glacier and getting to land on top of one of the surrounding mountains! I'd never ridden in a helicopter and it was just amazing! You feel like you are floating and you can see for miles and miles.
(View from the mountain of Franz Josef)
It ended up being one of our favorite things we did on the whole trip. The helicopter was just tiny, but for some reason it wasn't scary at all. It was thrilling to dip close to the mountain ridges and then see the whole valley open up below the helicopter.
(Franz Josef Hot Pools)
We stopped by the Franz Josef Hot Pools to relax before heading out of town. Soon we found out the town we had to get to that night is only accessible by one road... which closes from 4 pm to 8 am every day. It was already after 4 pm when we found this out, so we ended up spending the night in Franz Josef.
(Dinner in Franz Josef)
We wandered around the little town and had a long relaxing dinner as we watched the sunset behind the mountains. For a day when so many things went wrong, it worked out in our favor each time. It turned into one of the best days of our whole trip!
The next day we had an incredibly long drive. We stopped at one of the bluest lake I've ever seen, Lake Wakatipu, and watched the clouds roll in over the mountains like a thick blanket of fog. We stopped at a winery for a tasting and left with a great bottle of Pinot Noir.
(Lake Te Anau)
We made it to Te Anau with enough time to check into our hostel and grab dinner before taking a ferry cruise across Lake Te Anau. We got to tour the glowworm caves, which you can't take any photos of. You go into a huge cave with waterfalls and low ceiling. Then you climb into a tiny boat and the guide takes you farther into the cave in pitch black. Then you start to see the glowworms, tiny dots of light on the walls and ceiling of the cave all around you. It's like looking into the night sky!
(Kayaking in Milford Sound)
The next morning we drove to the Fjordland National Park. We met our guide and headed out to kayak in Milford Sound. Our group had only four kayaks, including the guide. We paddled around the sound for more than 4 hours, stopping at one point to eat a snack (we stayed in our kayaks) and then heading off again. We went up to a waterfall and our guide told us all about the history of the area.
(Kayaking in Milford Sound)
That night we did laundry and relaxed at our hostel before grabbing a delicious dinner in downtown Te Anau. The next day we saw two huge rainbows over Lake Te Anau, a sweet way to start our last day in the country.
In Queenstown we took the sky gondola up a mountain for a view of the surrounding area. We stood on the viewing deck in awe of the beauty we'd seen throughout the country. I've never seen water so blue or rolling hills so vibrantly green. Parts of the country reminded me of Ireland, others of San Francisco (Wellington), others of Florida (Nelson) and still others of Colorado and Montana (Franz Josef). The country is like a greatest hit album of our favorite vacations.
(Saying goodbye to New Zealand)
Most of our favorite memories from the trip were in New Zealand. We both loved it so much and truly hope that one day we get to go back. Tomorrow I'll tell you about Australia!
Photos by moi. Please do not use without permission.