Originally written shortly after 30 December 2014, when Clair I and drove this leg of our trip.
Queenstown was charming. It was quaint, rustic, and full of friendly travelers enjoying its short summer. Clair and I woke up a little early and enjoyed a massive breakfast before heading out. Just west of the city we crested a large hill and a vista point rewarded us for a five minute stop.
The drive to Fox Glacier was no less spectacular than the previous day’s trip. Our five-hour journey took us over the Haast pass to the west coast of New Zealand. The Haast pass was not particularly high or cold but its path narrowly twisted through a temperate rain forest. Moss clung to the rock. Ferns blanketed the forest floor. And thick forests of deciduous trees provided an impenetrable barrier to the stout, craggy mountains.
After a couple hours in the camper we decided to stop for a break and enjoy the fresh apricots and plums we purchased roadside on a previous day. I slid open the van’s side door into the thick, cool, wet air and enjoyed the scents of nature. For about 10 seconds. We were swarmed by sand flies and I took many bites. Even 20 minutes into the continued journey I was slapping the biting bastards off my legs.
An hour later we reached New Zealand’s west coast. And our helpful tourist radio—a GPS device updated daily using some mobile plan—announced the Curly Tree. Apparently young whitebait, a fish in adulthood not too different from herring, are pulled from the sea in November to make a New Zealand delicacy. Clair and I saw these transparent, stringy, minnow-sized fish mixed in an egg batter and fried into a patty before our eyes. On top of white bread toast and with a squeeze of lemon we enjoyed these fleshy, delightful little fish in what felt to my mouth like a fish cake.
The road to Fox Glacier hugs the Tasman Sea. The beach there is stark, rocky, and colorless. But it has a certain raw beauty that invited me to park and explore. Clair was cold and wouldn’t stray far from the camper.
We followed the road along the sea to the Fox Glacier. While this was the first glacier I’ve ever seen (I think) it was not the highlight of my trip. Of course any 20,000 square kilometer piece of ice is impressive. But it was covered with dirt and rocks so we were denied the grandeur of a glistening aquamarine block of ice. But in a mini-crevasse next to the gushing source of the sub-glacier river, a sliver of aquamarine ice was visible in a color I had only seen in magazines.
Our Top 10 camper site was only 2km away at that point. We pulled into this site, enjoyed another freshly made sandwich, and gave me time to write. It’s 6pm now and like every other night the sun will be up past 10pm and it won’t be dark until 11pm. Our campsite is next to another beautiful rocky beach and a small pub. We’ll enjoy both before sundown.