What even is a glacier?
Seriously, no one had ever explained this to me nor had I been bothered to research. All I knew is that I wanted to walk one. Well the opportunity arose.
Greymouth to Franz Joseph. This was the aim, and well it wasn’t difficult to achieve. Along the stunning West Coast through Hokitika, Harihari and Whatora, two and a half hours later we made Franz Joseph. What a cute town. It’s an alpine ski village for sure. The architecture is cozy, log cabins, steep roofs and huge fireplaces. However we hit summer. It had been pretty warm the majority of our trip in the high twenties, a lovely temperature really.
Parked Larry and went exploring, to see what Franz Joseph had to offer. We found our accommodation for the night at the ‘Rainforest Retreat’. It’s exactly what the name suggests. Hidden away each camper spot is engrossed with greenery, ferns and the dense forest floor. This was home for night ten and night eleven. With close proximity to the town, literally a three minute walk, we were settled.
Today also consisted of a, hour walk to what used to be the base of the glacier, now half way up the mountain, township exploration and some quite amazing pasta prepared and eaten by yours truly.
So we booked our Heli-hike for day twelve at 9:00am. What to do today. Franz Joseph Glacier is located right in the valley of some other spectacular mountains. We had decided that today was hike day. We found the ‘Alex Knob Track’, ten minutes from Franz Joseph and prepared ourselves for what would come. The sign suggests eight hours, but a lady said she completed it in six and a half hours, giving us a glance of hope.
Six hours and four super exhausted legs later we made the trek, up and then cruised down, where we met a lovely Swiss fellow. He seemed to know his mountain hiking stuff so we followed in his lead. Thank you kind Swiss guy! Hope your travels are going well!!
1303 meters high, and 17.5 kilometres later. This walk was spectacular all the way to the top, until the top where the cloud set in and visibility didn’t exist anymore.
A Heli-Hike was happening for sure! We booked with ‘Franz Joseph Glacier Guides’. This was so much fun! A three minute helicopter ride to the glacier and back with three hours on the ice. They provided water proof pants, jackets, socks, boots and my new favourite accessory, campons (making ice walks super enjoyable, easy and feeling invincible, with the little spikes on the base of your boots).
Seeing the glacier from a distance is amazing however actually being on it, exploring and seeing the details, crevasses and character is something else! Thankfully we had a fully clear sunshiney day, just the way I like it, being able to see down the valley through to Franz Joseph township and beyond. You can’t go though Franz Joseph or Fox Glacier and miss out on this because it’s something I’ll forever remember for sure!
Our Heli-hike wrapped up around lunch time, from which we ate, and drove to our next destination… Wanaka!
The roads between point A and B are yet again breathtaking! There were many beautiful stops, and side tracks to explore, each being so different but all being so great! Along the way, was a little area with the ‘Blue Pools’. Twenty minute walk and woahhh. Crystal clear, aqua water in the most pristine valley with pebble beaches and a bridge right over the top. Check this out! A popular destination for swimmers, if you are willing to brave the icy waters or sun bathing for those not so willing.
The rest of this leg took us through some lovely alpine forests, across deep valleys, and along the edge of Lake Hawea until we met Wanaka.
Wanaka, what are you going to show us tomorrow?