Aoraki/Mount Cook-Tasman Glacier
Arriving back in Queenstown we thought it best to rent a car for the next part up to Mount Cook. I’ve been hitchhiking for a long time in New Zealand but with what I’ve heard about hitching to Mount Cook village and the weather I decided it was best to see New Zealand by your own transport.Of which in this case was an japanese export model: the Daihatsu Sirion . With this tiny car we drove up from Queenstown through Cromwell, Twizel and alongside lake Pukaki before reaching the tiny settlement that is Aoraki/Mount Cook village. In being small though we had no choice but to stay at the YHA unfortunately because it’s one of two hostels in the entire area. But fortunately the next day cleared up weather wise and I was able to enjoy a lot of the day-hikes up the road that take you around the glacial lakes and valleys that we’re carved up by the retreating glaciers that line the southern alps in New Zealand including the largest, Tasman Glacier.
Kepler Track- Luxmore Hut
After the easy-going cruise through Milford sound, I felt it was time to get back into hiking for the first time since Routeburn. Definitely was not disappointed in Kepler though. The track begins 45 minutes from the lake-town of Te Anau and some of the best views along the track are above the treeline at 1400 meters above sea level as the views are dominated by the town and lake Te Anau and the Murchison mountains. Ultimately though it was just a 2 day hike as snow and rain were going to ruin camping out for the rest of the hike so I returned to Te Anau. Before the hike back I managed to get a glimpse at Luxmore caves, which are an easy 10 minute hike from Luxmore Hut, and shows off limestone rocks and various cave formations such as stalactites and shawls,
Franz Josef Glacier
After a one and a half hour walk/hike out of Franz Josef Village brings you within 500m of the Franz Josef Glacier. Along the way you just follow the valley that the glacier cut right out of the earth you see the Waiho river that the glacier itself feeds as well as it empties out in the Tasman sea 19 km away. The size of it apparently changes pretty often, but climate change and the o-zone hole have unfortunately left the glacier in a state of retreat rather than advancing. Regardless it was beautiful to see natural history and the waterfalls flowing down the valley walls.