Franz Josef Glacier
Trip Start Mar 29, 2006
61Trip End Sep 07, 2006
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Continued on from Wanaka and finally arrived at the Franz Joseph glacier , long long drive. The main roads here head through National parks which go with the curves in the mountains so it can be slow going around bends and over bridges.
It was dark when we arrived so we went straight to our chalet. The next morning was bright and clear so we headed down to the village early to book on a tour. You can view the glacier from the carpark but to do any walking or climbing on it, you have to have a guide, obviously for safety reasons and to get the right ice equipment. As a treat we decided to do the top of the range package, as it may be a long time before we are faced with a glacier again.
We joined our tour group and were brought to the equipment room, where we changed into very heavy and stylish brown leather boots, heavy jackets, gloves etc
We were then brought to the helicopter pad, the propellers were going full speed so the wind trying to get into the helicopter was unreal. We were lucky and got 2 very small seats next to the pilot. We all had to be strapped in and put headphones on. The flight to the top of the glacier took about ten minutes. The pilot weaved his way from one side of the mountain to the next, banking heavily so we could get the best view. Was absolutely amazing. He then landed the helicopter on an ice field marked out with stones. We met our guide who had already done a tour that morning. When we were all ready, he gave us some safety hints, i.e walk like John Wayne and make sure the crampons grip the ice or it is a long slide ride down to the bottom.
On every tour, the guide brings the group a different way through the ice so you have no idea what you will stumble across. We saw ice caves, deep crevasses, underground streams and the bluest clearest ice imaginable. At some stages we needed to double back and go other ways as the ice was to difficult to get through. The guide cut steps and valleys to enable us to squeeze through.
After two hours, we all managed to make our way back to the helicopter pad. Lisa was the only person who took off down the ice at high speed on her arse and stepped in an ice river to the knee so was soaking!
The helicopter picked us up again and flew us down the valley to the village. Was an amazing experience which more than made up for the aches and muscle pains the next day...
Off to Nelson next...
Love Lisa and Paul x