NZ South Island – Franz Josef Glacier

Kia ora! Writing to you today from Franz Josef Glacier township. We woke up early in Hokitika and ate some bakery goods that we bought from the New World yesterday. New World is basically the Coles of over here. Easily better than the NZ Woolies (Countdown).

We drove about 1.5 hours down to the Franz Josef township for today’s activity – A Helihike on the Franz Josef Glacier. The glacier is located in between two mountains high above the Franz Josef township. We arrived early and set aside two days for this activity as it gets cancelled frequently due to weather concerns. The helicopter can’t fly up to the glacier if there is low cloud and this part of NZ gets ALOT of rain. They run two flights per day 8:30am and 11am. Ronnie was booked into the 11 and luckily for him – his flight was a go which was great since the 8:30am was cancelled. We have been extraordinarily lucky on this trip with weather. We haven’t had to do a single rainy drive nor have any of our activities been cancelled or delayed due to weather.

Ronnie was participating solo in this activity today. He went into the centre and checked in and then got geared up with the rest of the group. They have you wear a snow jacket, waterproof pants over your pants, a harness, boots, thermal socks, a harness, a helmet and a bag with your crampons and camera/phone in it. It was all really heavy, particularly because it was a nice warm day – he heated up very quickly.

After some safety instructions it was a 10 minute hike through the forest to get to the helipad. This was particularly hard in the heat. Eventually we got the the helipad and loaded into the chopper. This part was fantastic. The views of the glacier and the mountains from the chopper were great. It was only a 5 minute flight but it was so nice. It wasn’t long until the chopper landed on the glacier. We then had to walk up a bit of scree which was actually quite difficult and then reached where the ice started. As we got the the top of the scree we saw a large block of ice break off the glacier and start tumbling down the valley. This was actually incredible. It is unreal how loud it is – sounded like thunder. The reason it was so loud is because its a huge object falling, but also because it was so quiet up there (no wildlife) and the shape of the valley amplifies the sound. Brilliant. They also call this section the bowling alley as this is a common occurrence.

Then we put the crampons on the bottom of our boots and began our hike. It was such a great time. It was physically demanding and difficult but it was so unique and great. The glacier changes all the time so the guide had to walk in front of the group and use a pick axe to cut stairs and pathways in for us. We had to use the harness to clip onto ropes as there were 20 metre drops into crevasses on either side of us. We also couldn’t stray from the path and had to stay single file. Some of it was sketchy as we were having to step over deep crevasses and at one point Ronnie stepped onto a part of the glacier and his leg went straight through the ice into a pond. That was dicey.

The view from up here were stunning. The best part of this tour is that what we saw is unique to us. The glacier is so changeable and moves so fast that what we saw today will be completely different tomorrow as the ice moves and changes. It was such a unique and great experience. It was physically demanding and at times very scary but it was brilliant and would recommend it to anyone. After the hike we got back into the chopper and taken back to the centre. The whole experience took about 4 hours with approx 2 hours on the ice.

We drove up to a little restaurant just up the road for lunch to a place called the landing. Aimee ordered a falafel wrap and Ronnie got a pie with mash potato, peas and gravy. We also got virgin frozen strawberry daquiri’s which were great as were the meals. Really hit the spot after this mornings tough activity.

We then went to check into our accommodation which is called the rainforest retreat. It is really cool. We are in a bungalow that has views of the rainforest nearby.

We had an afternoon sleep and then got up and went to dinner at a Filipino restaurant up the road called Blue Ice. We ordered traditional Filipino food Sisig and Pork Adobo. We weren’t real hungry so we had ordered them expecting small meals but they were both quite hearty and also really tasty. The meat was quite fatty and the sauce was tasty. We sat on the verandah though and got bit by sandflies which was not pleasant. It just added to the bites we already had.

We have a whole day in Franz Josef tomorrow and the Helihike is already done – going to be an interesting day!

Lunch – $60
4 Square snax – $14
Dinner – $51
Total – $125

Much love,
Ronnie & Aimee.

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