After leaving Lake Wanaka behind, our next destination was the glacier area on the West Coast. On the way to the first, the Fox Glacier, we made an overnight stop at the Lake Paringa Campsite. Unfortunately, the sandflies made it impossible to enjoy the sunset and we had to retire to our tent fairly early. That was not so bad because we spontaneously decided to do sunrise the next day for which we had to get up at 3.30am to drive to a good spot.
Sunrise at Lake Matheson
Early the next morning we made our way to Lake Matheson. The drive in the dark wasn’t very enjoyable because the area is full of possums and rabbits crossing the street in the dark. After about 1 hour, we arrived at our destination and were a bit stressed to see the first rays already showing. There were three different lookouts and after jogging to the first two without being entirely convinced, we arrived at the third: Reflection Island Lookout, where a small group of photographers had already assembled. The drive and jog were definitely worth the effort. After some time with mystical fog over the water and the stunning mountains in the background, the sun rose over the mountains giving amazing light to the photo enthusiasts.
Since it was still early we had some breakfast, electronics charging and chill time at a picnic area at the lake before heading off to the Fox Glacier area. Upon arrival, we right away did the short walk to the glacier lookout. This might sound a bit spoiled but after visiting the glaciers in Patagonia we were not super impressed. So we left the Fox Glacier behind to go to the next destination, the Franz Josef Glacier.
Franz Josef Glacier and surroundings
First, we visited the DOC (Department of Conservation) office to get some information about the hikes in the area. Then we went to the campsite we planned to stay at in the middle of the town. However, since it was still early and such a hot day we took down the tent and went to a campsite by the coast. We quickly built up the tent and went to the lagoon for some chill and nap time. It was only 2 pm and we had been awake for almost 12 hours.
After a couple of hours, we went back to the campsite where we finally had some electricity and wifi to get connected. When you’re camping in New Zealand it’s really hard to stay connected and use your computer because you never have the opportunity to charge it unless you choose an expensive campsite. We then went to bed early again to get up by sunrise to do an 8-hour hike the next day.
We arrived at the trail start at about 6.45 am and we were ready to go. However, something didn’t feel right that day, maybe it was too many early rises, but after 2 hours of hiking in quite a difficult terrain, Ale felt a lack of energy and I got concerned that this trail would be too much for my still-recovering ankle. So with heavy hearts, because we hate giving up, we turned around.
But considering we still would’ve had six hours to complete the track, it was the right decision. As an alternative, we did a little hike to Wombat Lake and the two little hikes around Franz Josef Glacier, which was way more beautiful and impressive than the Fox Glacier.