Fox Glacier was a great example of New Zealand geography. And we got really lucky with the weather, too. It had been raining the day before, but when we woke up, this was our view:
We took a bus to the foot of the glacier, where we saw beautiful turquoise pools of water, some milky and some clear:
We walked through the glacial valley, where the glacier was just fifty years ago.
I thought we would walk to the bottom and climb it. But no, we were to veer left and hike up and through tropical jungle to approach the left side of Fox Glacier.
We could see the glacier through the trees:
There were lots of nice little waterfalls along the way:
When we got to a clearing, we could see the valley that had been carved out:
Snow-covered mountains across the valley:
And just how long Fox Glacier really was (about 13km):
It was cool to see the blue of the glacier against the white of the snow:
After we hiked through jungle (about 800 steps up), we walked down these stairs towards the glacier:
And there she was:
We strapped ice spikes onto our hiking boots and had metal-tipped walking sticks to help us walk on the ice:
The shade of blue inside the crevices was beautiful:
And we got to explore ice caves:
It was also neat to see how smooth and rounded the glacier was in some areas (near the cave) and how jagged and lined with sediment it was in others:
Here is our group hiking up Fox Glacier, away from the glacial valley:
As we were leaving, we spotted the other group on the glacier (we split into two small groups):
The glacier trek was one of the coolest things I've ever done, and I would highly, highly recommend trying it.
After returning to the small town of Fox Glacier, we walked about 6km to Lake Matheson, the calmest lake I've ever seen.
We also hiked through jungle to reach it, but it was definitely worth it:
I'd never seen such a clear reflection in such a large body of water. Too bad it was a bit overcast, as Lake Matheson's reflections of Mount Cook and Mount Tasman are supposed to be absolutely incredible.
In any case, we had a nice walk back to town:
And were treated to a peek of (what we think was) Mount Cook changing colors with the sunset:
I know sunset photos get boring pretty quickly, but I've never seen a mountain this shade of pink-purple. I don't tamper with my photos, and this is exactly what we saw. We had been rushing back to town because it was supposed to rain, but we were stopped in our tracks by the sight of the mountain.
(We beat the rain.)
And I may just be one of New Zealand's biggest fans now. Aside from being beautiful, it was also voted the most peaceful country in the world (per the 2009 Global Peace Index Report).
So, yeah, I'd live there. And it doesn't hurt that one usually flies from the States to New Zealand via Fiji, either.