Te Wahipounamu, the South West NZ World heritage area.

Monday April 10th, we are back in Auckland ! What a wonderful journey (almost 7000KM) it has been through a beautiful country with lots of happy and relaxed people. I will try to give you some idea of this beauty although I can only say that many times reality is better than the pictures ! We are happy we could take our time and thus do a part of the many great walks as tramping is definitely the best way to see this country.

Just before leaving Lake Kaniere in Hokitika we saw this beautiful couple of paradise shellduck, this is the male.
This is the female.They are endemic to New-Zealand and form long-term pair bonds.

Te Wahipounamu was added to the list of World Heritage UNESCO sites in 1990. It covers 10% of NZ’s landmass. The glaciers (Franz Josef and Fox) form the connection between the coast and the highest peaks of the Southern Alps, MT.Cook (3724m).The area contains many of the natural features which contribute to New Zealand’s international reputation for superlative landscapes: its highest mountains, longest glaciers, tallest forests, wildest rivers and gorges, most rugged coastlines and deepest fiords and lakes.

Franz Josef Glacier in the back. It was named after the Austro-Hungarian emperor in 1865.

The Maori legend tells of the beautiful Hinehukatere who loved the mountains so much that she encouraged her lover Tawe to climb with her. He fell to his death and Hinehukatere was heart-broken.Her many, many tears flowed down the mountain and froze to form the glacier. Franz Josef glacier is known to Maori as “The Tears of Hinehukatere”. Since April 2012 all glacier walks require a helicopter flight past the unstable terminal face. This is exactly what we did !

Stefan with Franz Josef Glacier in the back. The glacier is now 12km long but is rapidly shrinking since 2008.
The helicopter taking us to the glacier. My first helicopter flight and I was so lucky I got to sit next to the pilot!
The blue skies made it even more magical!
Blue ice occurs when snow falls on a glacier is compressed, and becomes part of the glacier. Air bubbles are squeezed out and ice crystals enlarge, making the ice appear blue.
Small amounts of regular ice appear to be white because of air bubbles inside them and also because small quantities of water appear to be colourless. In glaciers, the pressure causes the air bubbles to be squeezed out increasing the density of the created ice.
The tour company gave us jackets,pants and the necessary gear, crampons and boots to enjoy our walk.
Rock debris mixed with snow.
The perfect spot to take a picture! The walks change almost daily because the glacier moves constantly.
It was difficult to make a selection of all the pictures taken that day…
NZ has many glaciers but most of them on the South Island. Franz Josef and Fox glacier are definitely the most popular ones.
After we soaked in the hot pools we were ready for a great barbecued salmon and some wine. A perfect way to end a great day to remember !

The next day we drove to Fox glacier, only 24KM further. We did not go on to the glacier but made several small walks in the area.

Fox Glacier is also receding – all of the glaciers here in New Zealand are. Some of it is natural  depending on the weather conditions of each year. But the acceleration of the decline in size is increasing and scientists don’t think it has ever been as fast as it has been in recently. They’re convinced that climate change is the major cause. Since 1977, the Southern Alps of New Zealand have lost 34 per cent of their ice and snow cover. The smallest glaciers have lost about 12 metres of thickness in that time. Do not wait too long to go see them!
The so typical native Toe Toe grass (Austroderia) for NZ and in the background the mountains Cook and Tasman.
A walk around lake Matheson. The lake was formed by an iceberg when Fox Glacier retreated 14000 years ago.
A picture of Matheson lake with Mt.Cook (3724m) and Mt.Tasman (3497m) in the back.

We continued our journey to Haast and Jackson Bay all the while stopping for little walks and enjoying the landscape.

View into the Tasman Sea from Monro Beach.
Monro Beach on our way to Haast. No picknicking on the beach because of the ferocious sandflies.
Ship Creek.
Glacial water, Arawata river, on our way to Jackson Bay.
Jackson Bay is 50KM south of Haast and the land stops there. It used to be a sealing station. In 1875 immigrants tried to set up a town here but constant rain and rotted crops forced most of them leave.
Jackson Bay is now a fishing village, so time for a good fish and chips at the Craypot.

After a night of “free camping” in Haast, nice location but infested with sandflies 🙁 we drove direction Wanaka with more gorgeous views.


3 thoughts on “Te Wahipounamu, the South West NZ World heritage area.

    1. Thanks Brenda ! I can only say, try to go visit the country but take your time! It is pouring rain right now but we do not mind so much since we have had already so many good weeks.Burnie is sold and we are spending the last days around Auckland till the 17th of April when we go back to Tahiti.

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