Important tip. If you are headed for the West Coast of New Zealand in a camper van, take a roll of duct tape to seal up the door joints of the van or maybe mosquito netting. Otherwise, like us, you will wake up on the dry riverbed of Haast lumpy with sandfly welts. Austrosimulium ungulatum, West Coast blackfly, if you’re like me and think that knowing the name of something helps. Misery, thou art a bloodsucker.
To leave Haast north, you end up crossing the Haast River bridge, the longest single lane bridge in New Zealand. So long you really can’t see the other end to know if a car is coming, so there’s two passing bay so you can squeeze your way past each other. But by now, Dean is one with his vehicle, I’m sure he could have backed it up the entire way if necessary.
The water at Ship Creek where we stopped to climb a ladder up a tin tower and read the informational placards about why it was named Ship Creek (apparently pieces of a shipwreck drifted in from the Tasman Sea and washed up here in 1871 and again in 1875, possibly the Schomberg which was wrecked off Cape Otway, Victoria, Australia, in 1854, in a shipwreck so unspectacular that all 300 passengers walked ashore, the largest wooden ship ever launched from Great Britain) was tea colored with swamp runoff and no good reason for the sky to be black with sandflies. They lay their eggs in fast moving water and everything here was still and heavy with fog that had yet to turn into pounding rain.
New Zealand Common Flax, a favorite nesting habitat of penguins.
Golden Sand Sedge alongside Ship Creek.
New Zealand has two sea level glaciers, like blue tongues sticking out of the silver beech forests, and by luck they’re an hour apart. The trick being that it snows so much (100 feet per year) that gravity compresses in on itself into a glacier and it just can’t melt fast enough. At one point, hundreds of years ago, they probably did go all the way to the sea and they are retreating like all glaciers in the modern age. Sort of. The Franz Josef Glacier (named after the Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria by the explorer Haast — who’d already named quite a few things after himself) is actually significantly larger than it was back in the 1980’s and is still in a growing phase. Go, baby, go. Because the blue ice is beautiful.
The Fox Glacier. To give you a sense of scale, there are people on the left hand side of the picture and that small bright orange rock to right is about 20 feet high.
The Fox Glacier. They let you walk up to it, but there’s a chain across the front and they tell you it’s forbidden to go any further without a guide. (Like a chain ever stopped anyone. It didn’t even stop the people in flipflops or “jandals” as they call them in New Zealand. But see previous comments about how New Zealand doesn’t really reward the families of people that go off and get themselves killed.)
Would have loved to stop longer, but we were headed for Franz Josef Glacier. I’d hoped to get a little helicopter assisted hiking in that day, but we missed the 2 o’clock, the last group of the day by 10 minutes.