After our warm introduction to the tiny tourist town of Franz Josef, Evan and I woke up ready to see exactly what we came for: the glacier.
The day couldn’t have been more perfect. After scones and coffee, we drove a few minutes down the road to where the trails start to see the glacier and other sights. It was chilly out, but the sun was so bright and strong we only needed light sweatshirts, which, midway into the hike, we tied around our waists. We meandered through a trail in the woods until it opened up to a huge, stone riverbank. On either side of us were mountains with thin waterfalls crashing into pools of the cleanest water I’ve ever seen. We could see the glacier ahead, sitting between two mountains. Eventually, we made our way closer to the glacier and to the river, which came gushing from a cave that seemed to mark the end of the glacier. It was so beautiful. The river had a very pale, ice blue color I’ve never seen before. I had a hard time deciding what to take more pictures of, the glacier looming in front of me or the river surging beside me.
Then it was back across the river bank, through the wooded trail, then onto another trail which lead to Peter’s Pool, a reflecting pool known for it’s stunning photo opportunities on clear days. And with a cloudless sky, it was definitely the perfect day for the view.
But we couldn’t spend all day hiking the various trails and taking pictures, of course. We had another town to find with the various, mostly unhelpful maps we’d collected thus far on our journey. And we had a true luxury awaiting us in that next town: a real bed (not a bunk bed) to ourselves (not in a room with 8 strangers)!!
We zig-zagged down the steep mountainside in second gear with a view of a lit up Queenstown at the bottom. Shortly after, we were pulling into the driveway of our “couchsurfing” hosts, Bre and Loic. Bre and her other roommates greeted us warmly, showed us right to our room, and invited us to join them for a big dinner in town in ten minutes. We put down our bags, I combed my hair, and we left for town.
At dinner we met Loic, an enthusiastic Frenchman living and working in Queenstown for a while. He and Bre were the closest of the roommates and, as we could tell, definitely the coolest. We sat with them on the end of a long table, toasted huge mugs of beer to our brief stay in Queenstown, and ordered the largest pizzas I’ve ever seen. They were SO good. We went to bed happy, stuffed, and exhausted.
In the morning we ate slices of the caramel cake Loic had baked and left in the kitchen for our breakfast, and we headed into town to visit a place Bre and Loic insisted we had to go before we left: Joe’s Garage.
Before we found the rave-worthy coffee shop, we walked around the town and along the river. The town’s trees were turning and the air smelled like fall, clean and crisp. Once we forced ourselves away from the picturesque scenery by the river, we found Joe’s Garage. There, we sat among locals, drank coffee with pretty, artfully poured foam, caught up on the “yes mom and dad, I’m still alive” emails, and discussed our next, painfully long drive back north to Christchurch.