Monday, November 8, 2010

Lake Matheson, Fox Glacier & Bruce Bay

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Day 4, August 21, 2010 - Franz Josef to Wanaka - 286 km.

The day began early for us - we woke up at five, packed our stuff and headed to the the first destination of the day. You must be wondering why on earth would we wake up that early, right? Well, we planned to catch the sunrise at Lake Matheson, which takes about forty minutes from Franz Josef. It was still dark when we were driving along the way, plus it was winter and the road might be icy and slippery; so we didn't wanna take the risk by going too fast.

Unfortunately, due to our poor planning, I think we missed the sunrise. We didn't know that we actually had to walk for another twenty minutes or so upon reaching there, to get the best view of the lake because that spot is located at the opposite end from the car park. Lesson learned - do some light research before visiting a new place. There was no clear signboard as in which way we had to walk, so we wasted another several minutes figuring out the right direction should we head.

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The signboard at the starting point of the track; a great place to familiarise one with the walk. We followed the red path, in clockwise direction.

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Cloudy sky over New Zealand's two highest peak - Mount Tasman (left) and Mount Cook (right).

We thought we would miss the sunrise altogether. However, it didn't matter much because it was a cloudy morning anyway. When we reached the first stop - the Jetty Viewpoint, we still managed to catch a glimpse of the early morning sky, and I guess the sun was up already, in between the thick clouds. We spotted an Asian couple there and we assume they were there to see the sunrise as well.

As if the chilling air of the winter wasn't enough, walking through the bush surrounded by New Zealand's native trees like the tall rimu (red pine) and kahikatea (white pine) trees, in the wee hours of the morning doesn't help at all because we were almost shivering the during the entire walk.

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The colour of the sky changed after a while, and the water was calm as there were hardly any breeze yet.

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Traveling without tripod wasn't a problem; we just had to think creatively and improvise whatever natural resources we had.

The walking track has three fantastic viewing platforms along the journey and it takes approximately 90 minutes to encircle it. The paths along the walking track around the lake are generally in good condition and undemanding, well-suited to all people of all ages.

Lake Matheson is known as the most photographed lake in New Zealand, and one of the must-do visitor attraction in the West Coast region of the South Island. Not for its dark brown waters. Not for its west coast rainforest. Not even for the abundance of water birds and other wildlife. Its fame stems from the surrounding mountains, or rather the stunning reflection of the two highest peaks in New Zealand - Mount Cook and Mount Tasman in its waters.

The lake was formed 14,000 years ago, as a result of a slight depression left in the landscape by Fox Glacier as it retreated back toward the mountains from its last major advance towards the sea. The surrounding forest not only gives the lake shelter and context, it's also the source of the water's dark brown colour, which comes from organic material leaching into the lake from the forest floor. And so, the forest is also responsible for the wonderful reflective quality of the water surface. The dark colour and protection from the wind provide a smooth surface which projects a mirror image of its surrounds (source).

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Besides tall pine trees, the forest is also full of ferns. 

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And green moss too.

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A nature walk that offers you a tranquil journey through winding bush with plentiful bird song and stunning views, no matter what the mood of the
lake.


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At some sections of the walking track, there are boardwalks as well.

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We were on our way to the second platform (View of Views) when we spotted a gap in between the trees that provides this magnificent view.

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At another spot, which also offers a beautiful scenery of the mirror lake.

The best time to capture the perfect reflection is at dawn or dusk, before there is any breeze. By a happy coincidence, the mountains to the east, including the long views of the monumental Mount Cook, are perfectly positioned to reflect in the lake.

However, a perfect reflection requires wind-still and clear skies, plus the absence of ducks in the lake. That's because when we were there, there was a balding of ducks swimming so happily in the lake, and that effectively spoil the calm water =.= Even though the trees offer plenty of shelter, Lake Matheson is not much more than simply a nice lake and forest if it's cloudy or windy. It's really the reflective qualities of the waters that give it its must-see status. Without those, it may not be worth making an extra detour to see the place.

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 There were small streams that flow through the forest.

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Besides the native pine trees, there are also New Zealand flax in the area.

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Wasted some time camwhoring in the middle of the forest haha!

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Finally, we reached the third viewing platform at the Reflection Island. This is by far, the best spot to catch the mirror lake.

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Nature has combined exactly the right ingredients to create truly stunning reflections on the lake, which make it a paradise for photographers.

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Quite rare to see open green fields without sheep in New Zealand.

After spending almost two hours walking along the track, we finally arrived at the starting point. The walk was quite okay, but there were a few uphill and slopes. There were some points when we were left wondering when it's gonna end as we struggled to catch the fresh air. Dah-la cold and tired, stomach pulak so damn hungry some more. What a "fantastic" combination lol!

We stopped for refreshments at Matheson Café, a large café adjoins the forest entrance that was opened just a couple of years ago. It was my very first Western meal since I arrived in New Zealand.

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Matheson Café, a place to get good food in pleasant surrounding.

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A new and contemporary look.

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Matheson Breakfast - Bacon, kransky sausage, field mushroom, grilled tomato, potato hash, toasted Turkish bread, 2 poached eggs and hollandaise.

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Hot chocolate drink.

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Flat white coffee.

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Since we were rushing to the lake earlier that morning, I only took the picture with this signboard on our way back to the car park.

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One last view of Mount Cook, as we drove back to Fox Glacier township.

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Along the way, I spotted a group of cows gazing on the green field. I immediately asked Mich to stopped for a while.

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One of my mission during this trip (i.e. taking a photo with New Zealand's cows) is complete haha!

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Fox Glacier township, a small town with population less than 400 people.

Our next stop was the Fox Glacier, a rather quieter area compared to the Franz Josef Glacier. It is slightly longer than the Franz Josef Glacier at 13 km, making it the longest of the awe-inspiring New Zealand West Coast glaciers. New Zealand's West Coast glaciers are unique and probably the most accessible glaciers in the world, as they terminate amongst temperate rainforest just 250 meters above sea level.

Similar to the Franz Josef glacier, the Fox Glacier it having the distinction of being one of the few glaciers to end among lush rainforest only 300 metres above sea level. It is one of the most accessible glaciers in the world, with its terminal face an easy walk from Fox Glacier village. Compared to the Franz Josef Glacier, the walk from the car park to the terminal of the glacier takes less time. However, due to time constraint, we didn't walk all the way until the terminal.

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At the entrance to the Fox Glacier.

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A small stream flowing from the glacier.

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Stupid pang-sai pose, which made me look as if I was gonna shit into the water haha wtf!

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Walao! I'm so impressed by our smartness that even though we had no tripod, we managed to place the camera on the safety poles haha wtf!

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Beautiful reflection of the glacier on the blue water.

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A closer look of Fox Glacier.

We continue our drive along the State Highway 6 down south and our next stop was Bruce Bay. It was just a brief stop to see the rock and pebble piles along the coast road at Bruce Bay. The people of the West Coast have turned the grey stones, commonly found in Bruce Bay into an art form. While not startlingly beautiful, they are smooth, they come in different sizes, and they are perfect for stacking.

The piles upon piles of tall stone pillars towering in silence along the coastline doesn't hold a real significance, but just a place where someone has started building stone cairns and driftwood piles. People, usually tourist and travelers passing by have followed suit to fill in time between rides. There are lots of thoughts and theories on them bringing you good luck etc but really it is just a case of "follow the leader"

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The wild beach near Bruce Bay.

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It seems that I have fetish towards this kind of pang sai pose haha!

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Not so much in the art itself, rather in the thought that hundreds before me had stopped, collected, and placed eticulously, stone after stone, to leave a simple token of their visit.

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There are hundreds of them and they look so cool.

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Like a Japanese art form, these simple stone stacks seemed very peaceful and rather beautiful.

Our journey continued, and we made a few more stops along the way. This time, to look at several blue stuff.

~ to be continued ~

4 comments:

kae vin said...

the stone looks chaotic. =.=

and no need to squad in the pictures la. U are not tall enough to block the mountain. =.=

calvin said...

@ kae vin:
haha! i just feel hard to pose while standing, unlike some camwhore freak who can come out with thousand and one pose in just a couple of minutes :P

sheryl0202 said...

OMG I really hate you la..your pictures are stunning! Also you cover so many places that I didnt have time for! I wanna cry already...

calvin said...

@ sheryl0202:
haha, don't hate me lah. like you said, it just gives you another reason (or maybe, excuse? =P) to return to new zealand. to be honest, there are still many places that we didn't manage to visit as well.