Franz Josef Glacier is a little town built at the foot of one of New Zealand’s biggest glaciers. The glacier flows down the valley very slowly in the same way a river would. The first glimpse of it is the clearest:

The sign next to entrance of the valley gives a good history of the glacier.

The walk to the foot of the glacier is about one mile through the rocky valley floor. The valley’s mountain walls are covered in thick forests with the occasional gushing waterfall. I climbed over to one such gusher for a photo moment.

This is about as close as they let you get without being a geologist of some kind:

Lake Matheson was recommended to us and it was a very pretty lake, although all the lakes in NZ are pretty. It flows out through a river to the sea, over which a very swingy bridge alarmed a host of tourists with its swaying. We waited for them to get out of the way so I could take a picture.

The drive to Wanaka of course had some very scenic views:

The main reason for stopping in Wanaka was to go skydiving! Here on a map I show you where I am in the country:

They make you wear a goofy jumpsuit for the dive and strap you to a “beautiful stranger,” a professional skydiver. For those of you who have never been, skydiving is a must-do at some point in your life.

The plane was stuffed with the tourists, their beautiful strangers and the cameramen for those who paid for DVD’s of their dive. For “only” $300 more, you can have a cameraman jump out with you and record everything. Most of the other tourists thought this was worth the price, so good for them. For that much money you can buy another dive, so I saved my money for next time. When the plane reached 15,000 feet each group of two or three scooted towards the opened door and fell out. The first moment of jumping out the plane is the most memorable. For a moment I felt a little uneasy but then I was plummeting downward through the air, looking at the mountains and lakes and fields, and there was no room or time for fear, just pure adrenaline. Since I didn’t pay for their camera services I don’t have any pictures of the dive, so you’ll just have to go for yourself to see what it’s like. Or google it.

I don’t know the name of this river or hydropower plant but it’s a nice picture anyway.

After the dive we continued our drive to Queenstown, a touristy city on the shores of Lake Wakatipu. There’s all sorts of adventure sports and activities to do like swinging across canyons and rafting the rivers nearby. Queenstown is the site where commercial bungy jumping was invented, and in fact we drove over the bridge where it all started on our way into the city. No pictures.

Also on our way into Queenstown: wine country! Central Otego is an up-and-coming wine region that specializes in Pinots. We stopped at a couple tasting rooms and tried them out. Not as good as California wine, but a very pleasant experience nonetheless.

“A solid contender. Full-bodied and earthy, with strong flavor of tobacco, dried leaves and old leather chair. Strong oak background with walnut overtones and a trace of mahogany. Perfect for rare roast beast with a cigar afterwards in the library.”
– borrowed from the Joe Weber Essential Catalogue of Top 100 Late Summer Wine Pairings, 2011

In the morning I packed my stuff, said a warm goodbye to my wonderful travel companion Lisa, and drove alone 450km from Queenstown to a hostel next to the Christchurch airport. The drive was easy, through valleys and long stretches of straight roads. I only stalled three times and spent the rest of the day working on my blog, catching up in my journal and watching The Wire season 4. Pretty solid ending to a highly successful trip. Here is a map of the driving I did on the south island in 4 days:

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