To the Glacier!

Trip Start Nov 09, 2012
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23
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Trip End Mar 04, 2013


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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Wednesday, January 30, 2013



We
were very sad to say goodbye to Queenstown, which is an amazing place
– so much to do and see (if you have the money) – but we had a
date with a Glacier. Franz Josef glacier was 5 hours drive up the
west coast, ironically, we are only 5 minutes by helicopter from when
we went on the Tasman Galcier tour – but the southern alps mean you
can't drive directly over from east to west. We stopped at Lake
Wanaka for lunch, got our chairs out and had lunch in front of the
large, aqua blue waters, before heading into mountain country. The
roads are windy, up and down hills and mountains and provide the most
wonderful views, especially as we looked out from our lookout over
Mount Cook, Queenstown the Tasman. We stopped at some beaches and a
waterfall on our way down and took some lovely pictures. Downside of
the day was the drop toilet that we had to use at one of the stops
which convinced Debs she got some kind of virus (it was minging!).


On
our way here we passed Fox Glacier, about 20km before Franz Josef,
which is another glacier which you can hike around on – and one I
nearly chose to go to – but the hikes at Franz are supposed to be
better – driving through, I wasn't disappointed as the town centre
consisted of 5 or 6 shops...


Arriving
in Franz Josef, we checked into our campsite and decided to eat out –
so drove to the town centre and found a breakfast bar for salad and
poached eggs (feeling healthy)... The town itself is small, it is
one street with 3 restaurants, a supermarket, some souvenir shops and
some helicopter hike/tour outlets – a very sleepy town with 330
residents (but more with tour guides etc that work out of the town)
so there isn't that much to do outside of the tours and tourist
activities. We were here to check out the glacier and take a
heli-hike (helicopter ride to the glacier and guided tour).


Franz
Josef, or its Maori name, Ka Rroimata o Hinehukatere is 1 12km long
glacier on the West Coast of NZ. It decends from the Southern Alps
to less than 300 metres above sea level and is surrounded by forests
in a temperate climate. The glacier advances and retreats each year,
and in the glacier basin, by upto 9 metres a day. The roaring 40's,
humid winds from Australia, dump rain and snow on the glacier,
keeping it 'sustained' – with around 220 days of rain per year.


It
was on this glacier that we descended in our choppers, for a 2 hour
guided hike on the second icefall (around 7km from the basin). We
were in small groups of 6 and we were kitted out with boots and
crampons so we kept upright on the ice. We started at the 'helipad'
(some smoothed over ice) and walked up the glacier, through some ice
tunnels, saw a waterfall and small avalanches from an area of ice
that's collapsing down a rockface. We had to keep behind Sam the
guide in single file as there are holes in the ice that go down for
miles which we could fall down (no drama) so once he told us that, we
(for the most part) did as we were told...


The
experience was outstanding, the views were magnificent, it was a
lovely warm day so we were in t-shirts, the guide was knowledgable
and friendly and the helicopter rides were fantastic! A very good
(but expensive) day out.


We've
decided to cut short our stay here by 1 day and head off to the Abel
Tasman National Park early for some kayacking and walks through
forests and beaches so we are hopefully going to be up early tomorrow
for a 10 hour drive to the tip of the South Island, stopping in at
Greymouth on the way. Abel Tasman has (reportedly) the best weather
on the island, warm waters and no cold winds coming in from the sea
so I'm very excited to get there – even though we've been spoilt
with a week of 30 degrees and blue skies...
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