I mentioned in my previous post that we arrived in Franz Josef to arrive for our booked glacier hike at the Fox Glacier the following day. Well we woke up in time to call the office about the road closures to the glacier and unfortunately since it had rained all night the road was still closed and the hike was canceled. We were pretty disappointed as this looked extremely awesome to try here. I haven’t done much hiking, let alone glacier hiking! So I was really excited to go, we both were.
Fortunately, there was another glacier that did hiking tours right in Franz Josef, where we were staying. It was a completely different glacier, but hey big deal, as long as we get on the ice! We called them up and they had availability the following day for a half day hike that left in the AM and would give us a good 3 hours on the ice. We sat in the car and debated if it was possible to stay another day in Franz Josef to go on the hike the day after. We had already booked a number of other things that we already paid for, such as the ferry to get to the north island in a few days. Was it worth it to stay another day and glacier hike or just continue onward with the original plan? Heck yes! When else are we going to be so readily able to hike on a freaking glacier. In New Zealand. So we made a few more phone calls, changed around our itinerary a bit and spent an extra day in Frans Josef so we could glacier hike the next day. And boy was it worth it!
So before we did the actual hiking, we had a full day to do whatever we wanted since we had to wait. We looked up some things to do in the area, the town was incredibly small, but managed to find a few things to do. The first thing we did was go to the tiny ass wildlife habitat in town to view some actual real life kiwi’s! They were captivity bred Rowi Kiwi’s which are the rarest type of Kiwi in existence in New Zealand. They are also nocturnal birds, so we had to view them in a really dark room. They were pretty cute, from what I could see anyway, and were so strange to watch. They are just bizarre little wingless furry bird lumps that sniffle around in the dirt for grubs and stuff. They definitely resembled some sort of ancient creature because they were just so bizarre to look at. After the kiwi viewing, there was a super small glacier information exhibit and some other small things and then that was it. The tickets were $25 a piece for a tiny ass little viewing. Kinda of a rip off, but We are glad we saw some actual kiwi’s finally. After the Kiwi viewing we went to a cafe and had some pizza for lunch and a few drinks before heading back to camp to laze around and read and watch a movie we brought with us on our laptop. The rain kind of prevented us from wanting to go out and explore, but we enjoyed our cozy indoor car movie time before hitting the sack and getting ready to glacier hike the next day!
We woke up and packed up camp and headed to the Franz Josef Glacier tour office to check in. We were handed all of our gear and briefed on the hike itself before hopping in the bus and heading out the the glacier! We had about a 1 hour hike to get to the actual ice from the car park as we walked through the rain forest and a huge rocky valley with cloudy white water rivers leading away from the glacier. It was surprisingly warm and sunny at the glacier all day and we were SO happy we decided to wait a day to do the hike. The landscape was of course beautiful and we had lots of fun learning from the guides about the geography around us.
As soon as we arrived to the very base of the glacier we had a steep climb up large rocky mounds before we actually got on the ice. The large rocky mounts were actually apart of the glacier, but movement from the glacier and rock avalanches caused the ice to be completely covered in rocks. This was the hardest part of the hike since it was so steep, but it sure warmed everyone up (literally) before getting on the ice. We went a bit further and took a short break to put on our crampons before getting onto the actual ice itself. I felt like a hardcore wilderness trekker with my crampons and my little pack around my waist while stomping along the ice of the glacier! It was an amazing feeling to be walking on such a large body of ice and then turning right around and seeing a rain forest and blue sky! I thought, how could such a large body of ice exist in such temperatures, it wasn’t even remotely close to freezing temperatures. The higher we went though, the chillier it got, but as long as we kept moving it was fine.
Near the beginning of our hike on the ice the guide found a small ice tunnel and told everyone to wait where we were while he found the exit. Making sure it wasn’t dangerous with water flowing and going with the flow of the actual glacier, he let all the girls on the tour crawl through the tunnel if they wanted! He said it was probably too tight of a fit for the guys, so us gals all got on our raincoats and squeezed through the tony short tunnel and it was totally fun! We have a video of me emerging from the opposite end and it looks like I am sliding out of a hole penguin belly style and being born through the womb of the glacier, aahaha! It was fun. We kept on and got to see lots of magnificent formations and hear lots about glaciers and how they are formed. We even at one point heard a low almost thunderous crack in the distance and the guide told us that there was a small cave at the very front of the glacier that formed the week prior that was cracking and changing as we spoke. It was really cool to be on such an active part of geography.
All in all it was an amazing thing to experience. I never knew that one day I would be able to stand on an actual glacier and revel in its powerful beauty. A one of a kind experience. I’m glad New Zealand has so much diversity in its geography. After the hike we headed back to the shop and turned in all of our gear. We then received a free pass to the local hot water pools to warm up after the hike, so Steve and I got in our swim suits and headed on over to the hot pools! They were outdoor pools with varying temperatures between 36-40 degrees celsius ( around 90-100 fahrenheit?) it was fun to relax in the pools for a while and chat with some locals and other travelers. Then we took some showers and hit the road again heading off to Hokitika!
We arrived in Hokitika fairly late, but managed to find a holiday park with someone open to pay for the night. On the way to the holiday park we passed a cemetery sign and a sign that read “Glow Worm Dell.” It was late and dark, but Steve was intrigued to see what the old cemetery looked like and we both had no idea what a “glow worm dell’ was. So we ventured out with some torches and checked them out. The cemetery was super old and super creepy at night. I couldn’t stand it, Steve was holding the torch and I couldn’t control what I was illuminating and swear I was seeing things in the distance…super creepy…kept looking straight up or down to not catch the glimpse of any undead creepyness that might be lurking about. The glow worm dell was really cool though! It was this little short path that led to the inner part of these tall cliff walls that had glow worms living there! Steve and I spotted two glow worms initially when we walked in, then I could have sword as I looked ahead of myself there was a break in the ‘trees’ ahead and light was shining through, but it turned out to be more glow worms! Kinda creepy, but it was beautiful and nice to get a first glimpse of the glow worms!
We then headed back to camp to get rested before we headed into town the next morning to learn to carve our own bone and jade pendants! See you tomorrow!