After Nelson the tour group I was with made many more interesting stops as it devoured the sights and scenery of the South Island of New Zealand. After leaving Nelson and raiding the local Salvation Army of the next town for supplies, we stopped for a bus costume party at a lonely little bar out in the middle of nowhere. Crazy times that will never be spoken of again, for sure. I think I did manage to let a few of the tamer pictures make there way to my facebook page...for some reason. After the costume party at the 'Poo Pub' we made our way to Franz Josef for some glacier climbing. We were given several options in which to explore the glacier with. Option 1: Helicopter tour where we land at the top, walk around for two hours and then depart via the same way we arrived. Option 2: Ice climb several walls of the glacier. Option 3: Take a guided hike about halfway up the glacier. I chose to explore the glacier through the wonders of option 2. It seemed a little more daring than just hiking up the glaciers with a group and a lot less expensive than taking a helicopter to the top. However, life seldom seems to follow the nice little plan that we have laid out for it and my time in Franz Josef was no exception. The rain was pooring down so incessently that the ice climbing portion of the options was wiped out. I decided to bypass the hiking portion as well, and just return to Franz Josef at a later date so I could complete the ice climb then. Needless to say, the two days I spent in Franz Josef consisted of lazy activities that didn't require much action or thought. That is one of the luxuries of traveling at your own pace and not having to stick to a rigid schedule- I can afford to take my time and wait for exactly what I want.
So, when our subsequent time was extinguished in Franz Josef, the bus headed to the sleepy little town of Wanaka. Wanaka seemed like a great place to take part in outdoor activities and to genuinely enjoy nature without being battered across the head with the commercial aspects that you see in most vacation towns today. We spent one night in Wanaka and stopped by Puzzle World on the way out of town. Puzzle World is worth the visit if you're ever in Wanaka, by the way. It has numerous mind-bending puzzles, problems, illusions, and even a maze that doesn't have the highest degree of difficulity, but is a nice way to spend a few minutes nonetheless.
Next stop on the South Island tour was the town most of us had been eagerly anticipating since we first arrived at the port of Picton. Queenstown. I had long heard of how much fun Queenstown was to visit. Let me just say that the stories I had been told of the quintessential adventure town were indeed true. Remember how quaint and commerically untouched I said that Wanaka was? Well, Queenstown was the exact opposite. However, despite the outrageous prices for goods and services, I must admit that I had a great time in Queenstown. So good that I got sucked into staying there a lot longer than I had anticipated and spent a lot more money than I had originally planned. Oh well, so goes the life of a backpacker. A few days after our arrival into Queenstown, some of the other tour members and I decided to rent a car and head back to Franz Josef to tackle the elusive glacier. Sean, Michelle, Sara, Katy, Emma, and Georgina missed out on the glacier hike and wanted another crack at it. I was going along to finally be able to ice climb. I was looking forward to the trip when about two hours before we were set to take off one of the girls told me that the ice climbing was full for the next day. I was crushed. Once again, no ice climbing the glacier. I managed to pull myself together enough to tell her that I'd still go on the trip with them and take part in the glacier hike instead. Ice climbing was something I really wanted to do, but I figured that it's not that often I get to spend any time on a glacier, so I better go for it. After the hike I realized that I definitely made a wise choice. The guided hike was ok, but shortly after it started I decided that I would rather have just rented the necessary equipment myself, set out for the top of the glacier and find my way on my own. That's the problem with taking hikes in a group- your only as fast or competent as the least skilled member of the group. When it was all said and done, returning to hike the glacier was a great experience. Plus, road trips with friends are always a good way to spend the weekend.