Franztastic

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Thursday, October 14, 2010

We left Westport today to start the much talked about drive south to Franz Joseph. The costal drive is dubbed one of the planets 10 best road trips and that it way, the sea views were so fine and the Tasmin Sea looked so blue as the tide came in. The highway passed right alongside the sea all the way to Punakaiki, which is famous for its pancake rocks and blowholes.  These limestone rocks are shaped through a weathering process called stylobedding, and they look like a pile of pancakes, when the tide is right the sea surges into caverns and booms through the blowholes.  I thought there would only be one rock but when we took a short walk there we found out there was lots and lots of these rocks everywhere and the walkway took us right through the middle of them all, it really was so much better than I expected.  We only caught the tide on nights way in if we had of been a few hours later the water spray would have been a couple of meters higher.

We arrived at Franz Joseph a couple of hours later and checked into a hostel with a camp site out the back on astroturf, I let Justin worry about how we would get the tent pegs  though the turf as I made a cuppa.  This town is famous for the Franz Joseph glacier, it's a very small town but has a good feel about it.  We decided to book for our glacier trek for the following day as the weather would be changing after that and as we went into the main office the lady behind the desk was so rude, she couldn’t be bothered to explain what was included in a half day tour and a full day, so when I asked Justin what his thoughts were he just said " attitude" to the lady and we both left to discuss whether we drive further south and do a tour on Fox glacier instead, but because of time we went back in the office and just booked up.  Now I loved every minute of seeing Moreno glacier in South America, to get to walk on this one was very exciting.  We met at the main office the following morning and toe guides drove us up to the glacier and we had to walk for about one hour till we reached the glacier face which was awesome, to see it sweeping down between the mountains is truly an awesome to see.  We were split up into three groups; group one fast walking in good health, group two; moderate speed and health and group three who just wanted to take it easy.  So being keen to get up there we decided to join group one and our guide was Ryan from UK.  He was great so full of energy and really enthusiastic he gave us our crampons and ice picks and off we went.

The climb up onto the glacier was easy as there was a lot of rocks and rubble that the glacier had dragged through the valley rested on top of it, so it was like climbing a normal mountain.  Once we got on to it we all put on our crampons, which felt really weird, it took a few minutes to get used to walking in them but once we did off we went.  Ryan led the way and as we climbed up he would carve steps with his ice pick for us to use and he carried it with him the whole day. Because we had had really warm weather for 3 days there was a lot of movement, so we had to be extra careful.  We climbed about half way up the glacier and it was hard work as the surface was very uneven.  It moves up to 6 meters a day which is amazing and as we looked back we could see where it used to be many years ago and the formations in the rock were left as a reminder.  We did a lot of walking in the morning then we sat on the ice while we all had our packed lunches.

The afternoon got better as we had climber a fair bit, Ryan walked ahead looking for new caves and crevasses to enter and he did find one cave but there was a huge crack running through it so he wasn’t happy with us walking through it but we all climbed inside as he took our photos.  Then just when we thought we would never find a crevasse he shouted us to follow him and he had found a massive crevasse which was just wide enough for us to walk through, it was a little scary as it could fall at any point if the glacier decided to move, so we rushed through to the other end, it was so exciting.  We then walked through a cave and the colours were amazing, I got to see what ice blue really looks like.  When we were walking back down we say a Kia parrot which nest in the forest nearby and they were really funny they walked right up to us looking for food and when they flew off we could see their beautiful red wings. By the time we climbed back down from the glacier I was absolutely shattered, my feet were aching and I just wanted to put my flip flops on. When we got back to our campsite we took a small walk and had chips for tea.
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