Fox Glacier and the Treasures of the West Coast

lake matheson reflection

Six weeks of amazing sunsets, beautiful beach walks and glacier views from all possible perspectives. Six weeks of cleaning toilets and bed making “with a view”. No hiking-mission and not the well known “one-more-night-game” held me in Fox Glacier. No, it was simply earning money: The working part of my working holiday has started. I decided to inhale some more of the fresh West Coast breeze. And I loved it. Why? Continue reading.

cleaning windows with good view
Cleaning with a view to Mount Tasman and Mount Cook.

After six months of travelling all over the South Island of New Zealand it was time to spare my bank account a bit. Sure, the list of hikes is still endless, but I had to work off the pleasures of the last months. At a 4-stars motel in Fox Glacier I professionalized my housekeeping skills. But self-evidently I still found the time to explore some jewels of this lovingly called glacier country. The picture above shows the famous reflection of Mt Cook and Mt Tasman at Lake Matheson. I can’t wait to show you more of the spots, which have found a place in my heart during the last weeks. Here we go:

Fox Glacier – not “just another” glacier

First of all I will introduce you to my temporary home of the last weeks: The township of Fox Glacier itself is just a conglomerate of skydiving and helihike providers combined with some nice restaurants and motels. What is special about this place?

helicopter flight Fox Glacier
Me on Fox Glacier – 300m of ice underneath my feet. See video below.

First of all there are not many places in this world, where you can witness a part of earth history a few meters from your doorstep. Fox Glacier is a 13km long glacier dropping from 2600m down to 300m above sea level into lush rainforest. Although the glacier is significantly retreating since 2009, it was advancing between 1985 and 2009. In 2006 the average advance was about one meter a week! (source: wiki)

ice Fox Glacier
The ice of Fox Glacier.

Now you can see the tongue of the glacier literally shrinking. Nevertheless it is impressive. Even the short touristy walk to the glacier is awe-inspiring. You follow the bed of Fox River, which marks the former path of the glacier. It is framed by massive rock faces smoothly shaped by the glacial ice walls.

viewpoint Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier from tourist viewpoint.

Gillespies Beach or “Go home! This is my beach.”

If I needed a place to think after work, Gillespies Beach was definitely my isle of peace. From Fox Glacier township an 13 km winding gravel road leads to this driftwood covered beach. The first thing that welcomes you in the “settlement” consisting of one house are sheep lingering on the road. My highlight at Gillespies Beach is the Galway walk: Only me, a hidden waterfall and the sound of Tasman Sea – just perfect. (Okay, one or another seal was chilling on a rock, but we didn’t get in each others way.)

waterfall at galway walk
The end of Galway Walk close to the seal colony.

A few days ago I saw probably one of the most beautiful sunsets ever at the lagoon. I took a walk to the abandoned miners tunel. (Sideinfo: The beach exhibits the beginning of goldmining at the Westcoast in the 19th century.) On the way back the sun was close to merge with the horizon of the burning ocean, when I reached the wooden bridge across Gillespies lagoon. The moon stood already high on the sky and reflected on the flawless surface of the lagoon. My eyes were wandering over the mountain range in the background. Mt Cook and Mt Tasman were glowing in a subdued red. Goosebumps all over my body.

Gillespies Lagoon reflection
Reflection at Gillespies Lagoon.

Look deep into nature, and than you will understand everything better.

Albert Einstein

The only annoying thing at this beach are not the sandflies, but the loads of campers, who occupy the carpark. An extended beach walk is recommended to escape.

sunset beach
Sunset at Gillespies Beach.

Oh, oh, Okarito

Okarito, what can I say? I fell in love with this small and sleepy village. On my days off Okarito was the place to be for me: I kayaked the lagoon, walked the coastal track and celebrated the 150th anniversary of the settlement with home brewed beer of some locals. Thanks again to Okarito nature tours, who enabled me to explore the lagoon together with the white heron – one of the coastal birds, that nests here. Not only the birdlife in Okarito and the views to Mt Tasman and Mt Cook are very special. It’s the whole atmosphere and the friendly people, who live here.

jetty reflection
Jetty in Okarito.

If you want to get an idea of what the Westcoast is about, you should pay Okarito definitely a visit.

kayaking lagoon
Kayaking in the rainforest at Okarito Lagoon.

Mount Fox and the cheerleading fantails

It is Tuesday, April 5th, 7am. The sky slightly changes its color from purple into light blue. The sun is still hiding behind the mountains. The fantails – some lively and everything else than shy birds – accompany my scramble through the dense forest.

rivers mouthing in tasman sea
View down to Fox and Cook River mouthing into Tasman Sea.

About 1200 hm and 3 hours later I ascent Mt Fox. As soon as I reach the treeline, I grasp the distinctiveness of this place. In the back the Tasman Sea, views across the coastline over to Lake Mapourika near Franz Josef Glacier. Southwards it seems like I could look all the way down to Fiordland. To my feet Fox and Cook River meander extensively through the farmland mouthing into Tasman Sea. I lift my head and in front of me Mt Cook emerges next to the impressive mountain ranges of the Southern Alps. As I walk further the valley opens the view to Fox Glacier. No picture can capture this moment.

ricecake mount fox
“High energy food” on the summit of Mount Fox.

This is the end… my only friend…

No, not really, but it is time to leave the South Island for now. I booked my ferry to Wellington for next week. I CANT WAIT to continue my personal kiwi experience. The hot pools and the volcanos on the NORTH ISLAND are waiting for me (hopefully).

kiwi ahead
Watch out! Kiwi ahead.

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