Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thursday: Manapouri -> Fox Glacier

I spent the day making my way from Manapouri, across the Southern Alps to Fox Glacier on the West Coast. I had originally expected this to be a 6 1/2 hour drive, but yesterday when looking at one of my maps it seemed to add up to over 10 hours, which was pretty intimidating. That map is very conservative in its estimates, and includes time for petrol stops and refreshments, but even with one stop for petrol, two food breaks and a wait at a landslide, it took me just over 9 hours (less than seven hours of driving).

My first stop was in Queenstown, a beautiful town overlooking a lake surrounded by mountains (The Remarkables). I pulled in, found a nice cafe/chocolate shop, and enjoyed a flat white with a dark-chocoate covered aljafor.

A little further on I stopped for lunch in Wanaka, a smaller beautiful town overlooking a lake surrounded by mountains.This one reminded me a bit of Banff and Lake Louise mixed together.

As I headed through the mountains towards the west coast (or as they call it here, the West Coast), traffic was held up for about 15 minutes at a landslide that reduced the highway to one lane. Apparently the slide (the say "slip" here) occurred a year ago, knocking a camper van right over the edge of the mountain, and killing the occupants. They are doing work to repair things a half-hour at a time, then letting cars through, widely spaced, one at a time, which didn't give me a great feeling of security.

Cars waiting their turn to pass by the landslide
at Diana's Falls on Route 6

This wasn't the only time today that the highway was reduced to a single lane. There are plenty of one-lane bridges where you need to check to see if anyone is coming from the other direction before entering (there never was; traffic has been light). The driving is a bit different here than in Australia, where no one ever passed me. Here I'm back in the middle of the pack in terms of speed on the road; I pass some cars and some pass me. I've been driving mainly on highways with only 1 lane in each direction; sometimes there are passing lanes every once in a while that let you get by slow vehicles, but several times cars or trucks have pulled over to let me by, which is something I haven't seen since I drove across Saskatchewan.

The scenery was once again awe-inspiring, and there were lots of animals to see along the way, including many thousands of sheep (and it's lambing season here, so there were lots of tiny little baby lambs), cattle and horses.

Selection of photos that have actually uploaded
from my iPhone and are available to use here!

I pulled into the small town of Fox Glacier just before dark, and easily found my hotel just off the highway. They upgraded me from a studio to a one-bedroom because I'm staying two nights (and because again there are only one or two other guests at the motel. It's a really nice place to stay, with a nearly full kitchen, large bath, and room to spread out. Nicer than the last two nights in Manapouri, and this town doesn't feel so deserted (there are at least four restaurants to choose from!). And the internet connection is excellent, and works from my room!

Had dinner nearby, and then returned to my room to watch the end of the Rugby Union match between Canterbury and Otago before crashing.

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