It was back on the bus to continue our journey.

Lunch Spot

Not far from Ship's Creek we stopped at an overlook. The hotel in Wanaka had packed lunches for us, which we enjoyed in spite of the drizzle.

The picture shows faint drifts of heavier rain here and there in the distance.

There are fur seals hauled out on the rocks and beach below.

Fox Glacier

Our next stop was at Fox Glacier. It has been rapidly retreating in recent years as have most of the NZ glaciers. The bare rock on the edge of the remaining ice indicates its former size.

We did not get any closer due to limited time.

The valley containing this glacier is adjacent to the valley containing the Franz Josef glacier that we visited the following day.

Landslides at Fox Glacier

The mountains in this area are largely schist, a fragile rock that crumbles easily. There are many landslides visible along the road.

Closed road

A landslide inundated part of the parking lot at Fox Glacier and completely closed the access road. The road used to go straight along the side of the embankment but had to be rerouted around the debris field.

Similar landslides have swept people to their deaths in this area.

Creek at Lake Matheson

Our next stop was Lake Matheson. The far side of the lake is noted for providing beautiful views of Mt. Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand, and the surrounding peaks.

Unlike most of the streams that we saw, this one has the tea-colored water typical of a forest stream. Decaying leaves give it the color. Back home in the deep south they are called "black water" streams.

Lake Matheson

The stunning views are predicated on two things:

Clear skies. Not today; the mountain peaks are shrouded in cloud.

No wind. Although the lake is sheltered from the prevailing breezes, today the wind was from a different direction and ruffled the surface of the lake.

Ah well, the view was merely lovely instead of stunning. It was an invigorating hike anyway and there were other sights along the way.


These tiny wildflowers were prevalent all along the path.

Lake Matheson is a kettle hole lake and has its own unique ecosystem (scroll down to the description of "Kettle hole plants").

Can't put a name to these.

Sphagnum Moss fall

Another of New Zealand's major exports is sphagnum moss, which has a surprising number of uses from baby diapers to hanging baskets. When dried it can absorb an amazing amount of water.

This is what it looks like "in the wild."

Sphagnum mossA closer view.

Rata Flower

I was also able to get a picture of a Southern Rata flower up close. Most of the trees were too far away, but this small one was right by the trail -- just for us tourists.

It only had the one cluster of blossoms.

Glacial moraine

After leaving Lake Matheson, we traveled through broken country with steep declines. The hill country in this area consists of glacial moraines left after numerous ice ages. Glaciers, as we will see later, carry enormous amounts of ground up stones that are then left when the ice eventually recedes. It is an unconsolidated and unstable mixture as shown here by the side of the road. It erodes easily into deep valleys and is subject to landslides.

This road is frequently washed out.

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