Queenstown to Franz Josef Glacier

Today I rode from Queenstown to the little town of Franz Josef on the west coast of New Zealand via Haast Pass.

I decided to face my demons and ride the Crown Range again since this road combined my two worst fears – riding a somewhat technical road courtesy of the seven hairpin turns after almost five years of not having done any technical riding, and my fear of heights. To be fair, I was on the mountain side going uphill so the fear of heights thing was a touch less dire than when I rode downhill a few days ago.

Aaaand – it wasn’t as bad as I had built up in my head after all. I mean I was ridiculously slow on the hairpins and at the highest point, and I went wide on at least one of the turns, but I made it and didn’t crash or go off the mountain like my imagination had built it up for me.

It was about an hour to get to Wanaka, same as the last time. There was some sort of festival going on in Wanaka but thankfully the traffic was going in the other direction so I didn’t get held up by it. I stopped quickly at the local supermarket – a delightful store like Whole Foods but way cheaper – and bought some peaches and mandarin oranges to replenish my fresh fruit supply. I ate a peach in the parking lot before taking off.

The ride from Wanaka to Lake Hawea was lovely. I kicked myself for not stopping at Lake Hawea though, which was beautiful and a brilliant blue like all the other lovely lakes I’ve seen in NZ so far. This was to be an on-going regret for the day because there were so many many gorgeous scenes for which I wanted to pull over and just gaze and take a million photos but there was either no place to pull over or I didn’t think of pulling over in time. Oh well, I’ll just have to come back again.


The most gorgeous section of the ride was when I was winding through Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka and then over to Makarora. I’m talking gob-smacked, I-can’t-believe-these-epic-vistas type of scenery. And what amazing twisties! And such glorious weather! I’m a lucky lucky girl.

About the only cramp in the works was coming up behind a looong “tractor convoy”. What’s a tractor convoy you ask? It’s a convoy of tractors! It’s a slow moving line of tractors moving slowly at like 20 kmph slowing everybody the fuck down. It needed quite a bit of calculated passing and just when you thought you were home free to open up the throttle, there was yet another tractor up ahead. There were so many false starts that I was gnashing my teeth. What a nightmare! I consoled myself with the fact that it was still gorgeous weather with great views and this wouldn’t last forever.

I must have crossed Haast Pass but I don’t know when that was because it wasn’t marked and the entire grade had been so gentle going up it.

I was in Haast before I knew it. I stopped there to make a sandwich out of my leftover chicken and wolfed it down. Just as I was leaving, I saw the tractor convoy getting into town and hastily took off to avoid them.

I was surprisingly tired for this section of the ride. I’m talking wanting to just get off the road and take a nap sort of tired. As you can imagine, this can be extremely dangerous and I didn’t feel very safe riding any more. But I had to make it to Franz Josef because there really was no place to stop in between, plus I had a hostel reservation for the night. I think this is a sad comment on how badly out of shape I am. :P I had only ridden 200 km so far. My average mileage is usually 300-350 miles a day before I start getting tired!


A beautiful river somewhere on the ride. How do they get it that color?!



Selfie with the river!!


Most scenic epic views including my first glimpse of the Tasman Sea!! How brilliantly blue!! All you can do is go – “Aaaaah….”. I so wish I had been alert and energetic enough to enjoy this section of the ride.


Reached the Tasman Sea!


When I could finally not take any more, I pulled over by the Sea and sat on the rocks to just take in the scenery and rest. I tried lying down but I started getting bitten by some bugs – sand flies, I believe. This was a much needed break though because I felt loads better for the rest of the ride. Most twisties and a few straights through gorgeous valleys.

I finally reached Fox Glacier at around 5:00 PM. I took the obligatory detour towards Lake Matheson where they say you can see a reflection of Mount Cook on a clear day. I ended up not seeing the lake because it was a bit of a walk to it and I didn’t feel like taking my gear off. Also, the mountain was clouded up so I wouldn’t really see any reflection.


Made it to Fox Glacier!


I rode on towards Franz Josef, which was a twisty 20 km ahead of me. It’s a really cool tiny alpine town with mountains all around and restaurants serving good beer and food. I think I might park myself here for a few nights and enjoy the place.

My hostel for the night was Montrose Backpackers which is adequate. The customer service is great but the rooms are very basic with old threadbare quilts and sheets and almost no storage space. After a great few hostels, it’s a bit of a downer but can’t really complain at $25/night.


Parked for the night


I treated myself to a really lavish dinner – New Zealand lamb chops with some tasty locally brewed beer. As usual, I had an entire chop left, which will be another meal.


A well-deserved feast.


On an absolute downer, while I was browsing online I got the saddening news that one of my favorite authors Terry Pratchett had died. What a sad way to end the day. Rest in peace, Mr. Pratchett. And thank you for the amazing world you created for us.

To conclude, I am finally in the rhythm of things and not totally stressed out about the ride. I’m used to how the bike moves, I’m correcting all the things I’ve been doing wrong like providing unnecessary steering inputs or cutting off the throttle abruptly. I’m less and less tired, and most importantly I’m thinking less about the bike and just enjoying riding it. I really like the way the suspension works and the throaty power. About the only things I would change are to add a taller windshield to cut down on road noise and possibly to reduce weight so that it’s easier for me to take it off of the side stand.

Also, today’s ride had everything! Mountains, rivers, lakes, alpine crossing, tons of one-lane bridges, plains, rainforest, beach, sea…. I highly recommend doing this one if you’re in the area.

Can’t wait to see the glaciers tomorrow!