The journey from Hokitika to Fox was one of our shorter ones, being approximately 157 Km. However, the landscape is ever changing from seascapes to mountain passes and broad river beds, and quite rightly is best taken at a leisurely pace
Since we were travelling with all we needed for lunch, a stop off in a designated spot along the mountain road, was ideal. The heavily wooded precipice and river valley on our left was guard-railed off and looking though at the canopy of the West Coast forest, I was struck by some trees with dark branches and the kind of cloud pruning so beautifully depicted in Japanese paintings. However I never did manage to identify them though they had the look of an Ash trees and after all this is temperate forest. Meanwhile, I was vaguely aware of something soft brushing my ankle.
“These are the sand flies I warned you about” said my companion.
“Huh! if that is all they are, I’m OK” thinks I and so our journey to Fox proceeded down Highway 6.
“The humble New Zealand blackfly, commonly known as the sandfly. The bites cause nasty swelling, itching, hives, and a general desire to scream. Two species are only in the South Island, the ones that really bite!”.stuff.co.nz
Next stop Franz Joseph – one of the busier glacier tourists town and not ideal from our perspective but a good place to have an early evening meal. After all, we were heading for Fox and its famous glacier.
Franz Josef Glacier was first explored in 1865 by geologist Julius von Haast, who named it after the Austrian emperor. The glacier is five kilometres from the town.100% New Zealand
By the time we arrived in Fox, the glacier was deep in cloud cover and with fading light, we just managed the short walk through some wet and wonderful rainforest. Of course my camera battery died then but had we stayed a little longer, we might have seen the glowworms.
Never let it be said that sandfly bites are trivial – they are the itchiest thing I’ve ever experienced and sleep was not easy. The next morning however, cloud still hid the glacier so the only thing to do was to visit the other Fox attraction – Lake Matheson – which only existed because about 14,000 years ago, when the Fox Glacier retreated from its last major advance it left a depression which later filled with water.
At first sight Lake Matheson looks quite unappealing because it has dark brown waters from all the organic mater that runs into it
At Lake Matheson, nature has combined exactly the right ingredients to create truly stunning reflections of New Zealand’s highest peaks – Aoraki (Mount Cook) and Mount Tasman.The waters of Lake Matheson are dark brown, so on a calm day they create the ideal reflective surface.100% Pure New Zealand
But the day was breezy, ruffling the surface waters and the mountains were ensconced in thick cumulus. And at such times, we must withhold expectations and take all that was given which was another really enjoyable day (aside from some mosquito bites to add to the sandfly depredations).
Next Stop: Haast and Wanaka here we come