Journal of a visit to New Zealand, via Singapore

The Land of the Long White Cloud
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Photographs by Gerald England
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This page last updated: 17th December 2007.
Day 10: Franz Josef Glacier Map

Day 10 It is very cold first thing, but soon brightens up. Catherine brings our breakfast out to the unit. We are not travelling far today so do not have to rush off.

A few miles down the road is Whataroa where we are booked on the 11 a.m. White Heron Sanctuary Tour. After obtaining our entry permits for the Waitangiroto Nature Reserve, a young women drives us all down to the river. There we transfer to a jet-boat for an exhilarating ride past cattle-grazing meadows down to the shore and from there we glide into the reserve. The Sanctuary is the only site in New Zealand where the White Heron (Kotuku) nest. As the herons had all flown off several weeks ago, the boat was able to travel up to the nesting site instead of dropping us off at a boardwalk. About the only birdlife we saw was a teal which swam ahead of the boat attempting to lure us away from her chicks.

Back in Whataroa we visit the Maori Art Gallery. It hosts a fascinating collection of wood-carvings, although most of it is way outside our pocket.

We turn off the main road to Okarito. We pick up a couple of Dutch hitch-hikers and take them down to the Youth Hostel where they are staying. The hostel is an old school-house and we have a cup of tea before leaving. The Okarito Lagoon, on which kayaks can be hired, stretches across to the Waitangiroto reserve and is the main feeding grounds for the kotuku. At the other end of the village is the beach. The sand is a peculiar shade of grey.

Arriving in the village of Franz Josef, we stop for a burger and a drink at Beeches Restaurant. We are staying at Waiho Stables which is a short distance beyond the village past Docherty Creek Bridge. We make the mistake of turning off too soon, going past the airfield and end up in a farmer's backyard. We soon get re-directed. At the stables we have a downstairs self-contained unit looking out across the fields. Suzy Miller, our host, greets us warmly on arrival and tells us about the area. Our room contains a number of books of history and photography. Christine had been hoping to go horse-riding but it seems all of Suzy's horses are currently in foal and so this isn't possible.

Suzy's husband Alex is a pilot with Aoraki Aero Company. We are told that this evening is just nice weather for a flight. Together with a couple from Canada, who are also staying at the stables, we drive round to the airfield. Alex flies above the Waiho River towards the sea. We can see the glacial flood-plain clearly and the rainforest. He then turns inland, flying over Lake Matheson towards the Fox Glacier. The views are quite breathtaking. We only realise just how high we are when we look down and see the helicopters landing on the glaciers. They look like toys. As we fly around Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, we feel as though we could just reach out our arms and touch them. Alex takes us around Mount Cook and we can see south towards Lake Pukaki. There is some thin white cloud about and a little turbulence as we cross the Tasman Glacier and fly around Mount Elie de Beaumont before descending. Our ears pop as we descend and it is several hours before our hearing returns to normal.

After this magical experience, we go back up to Beeches Restaurant. Their evening special is fish dori with a selection of vegetables, some of which are quite unfamiliar to us, but very enjoyable.

Journal - Day 11 Photographs - Day 10