"The glacier is the grey stoney looking thing in the background." Sean Farrell
In focus

The Happy Camper: it's all downhill to Dunedin from here

“Tosh’s catchphrase for the week has been “schnappy schnappy” as every time a scenic vista presents itself he is compelled to take a photo of it. The words echo around the cabin as often as the steering is turned.”


Since leaving Auckland we have had one destination in mind, sure we took the long way round and had a few stops along the way but after a week of some fairly heavy driving we are finally in Queenstown.

It’s 380 kilometres and six hours since we left Franz Josef.

The early start we had planned in order to get a 9am guided tour of the glacier was missed thanks to the little bit of ‘central heating’ we allowed ourselves in the bar.

You see, we had just watched Argentina scrounge past Scotland and were left very cold by what we saw.

The icy nip in the air made any grogginess soon vanish, we decide to forego the $123 tour and find we can instead drive round to have a look for ourselves.

Public access is limited to within 100 metres but you can get the gist of it from there, right.

The walk to that perch is a brisk four kilometres through a stony valley where the receding glacier used to reside. Up to 10 small waterfalls cascade from the rocks down into the river below we are dressed for an icy hike but experience nothing more strenuous than a stroll in the sun.

At our viewing point, you can see the glacier wedged between the mountains. A tunnel has been bored the base by the water that gushes out. It’s probably much more spectacular from up on high. Lower down, the ice has been turned grey by the falling gravel and Del reckons “it could do with a good wash.”

“Schnappy schnappy”

We’re experiencing scenic fatigue, an enviable condition whereby everything we see in the landscape looks so amazing it causes us only to breathe out a sigh in unison. Every time you turn a corner, there is a better view to be taken in and, frankly New Zealand, it’s getting a bit tiresome.

Tosh’s catchphrase for the week has been “schnappy schnappy” as every time a scenic vista presents itself he is compelled to take a photo of it. The words echo around the cabin as often as the steering is turned and he’s gotten sick of saying it. There is so much to see, that we are constantly left feeling that it is impossible to drink it all in.

Little over half an hour after we leave glacier country we’re back by the sea and the sun is now beating down on the brilliant blue Tasman, though the water feels about five degrees colder than it did in Hawkes bay so the speedos are kept dry today.

We carry on down to Haast where we top up with diesel – it’s the last fuel station for 88 kilometres – and then head off into the mountains. The weather changes in an instant, every cloud stuck low against the rock opens on top us as we wind through Mount Aspiring national park and back into sunshine on a long flat plain.

The shores of Lake Wanaka were the next achingly beautiful sight to greet us. The lake is 42 kilometres long and (reportedly) 300 meters deep. It’s magnificent, or at least you think it is until the road whisks you away to the left to show off Lake Hawea on the other side of the ridge. It all looks so perfect, so pure that Del felt a sense of duty to change whatever popular culture beat we were listening to, and stick on Enya’s Orinoco Flow to make a more fitting soundtrack to the journey.

At Wanaka we turn for a shortcut though the Crown mountain range. The van is again put to the test on steep climbs followed by a steeper descent, riddled with hairpin corners. But we made and arrive into Queenstown at sunset like John Wayne after a long cattle drive from Rio Grande.

A week of travelling is behind us, we’ve travelled almost the length of this country, now it’s time to shack up and charge the batteries for a few days before heading to Dunedin for a big match weekend.

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