Leaving Wanaka was tough, with the three swimming pools, free WiFi, but more importantly, a washing machine and dryer in our room. But we did leave, heading first to Mt. Aspiring National Park for a short hike, followed by a long drive to Franz Josef Glacier. The road was sort of like the PCH in Oregon. We went over the mountains to the coast, and followed the coast for a while until heading into the mountains and Glacier Country. The scenery was spectacular, only spoiled a bit by rain. The most surprising thing about the drive to me was the one lane bridges. Remember that this is a major highway in New Zealand, like I-70 or I-25 in Colorado. And all of the major bridges were one lane. That means that traffic headed in one direction gets to use the bridge while the traffic going in the other direction waits. Luckily we almost always had the right-of-way, and luckily we were about the only car on the road. We didn't get to Franz Josef Glacier until pretty late, just enough time to eat, relax, homeschool, and sleep.
The weather this morning was great, so we went straight to Franz Josef Glacier and hiked 45 minutes to the base of the glacier. To go out onto the glacier you have to have a guide, and we didn't have the time or money for that. Today was a pretty big homeschooling day before we start our last leg to Sydney. After the hike we had a nice lunch and headed for the West Coast Wildlife Center so Misa could get to see Kiwi birds. We saw them last time we were here, but she does not remember them. We spent the entire afternoon in the Wildlife Center, going in to see the birds, snacking in the cafe, and homeschooling. I think the workers there thought we were a bit strange.
It is hard to talk about New Zealand without using the same words over and over, beautiful, amazing, spectacular, etc. I felt the same way this summer when we were traveling through Yellowstone, Teton, Glacier, Banff, Lake Louise, Oregon, Redwoods, etc. Sometimes words just aren't enough.
Tomorrow we turn in our rental car and take the train to Christchurch. It is sad to be going back, knowing how the beautiful city was damaged by the earthquake last year. We hear the center of town is still closed. We will not visit the town, but just try to eat and re-pack our bags for our flight. My next update will most likely come from our apartment in Sydney!