Ice, Ice Baby - 18th - 20th November 2011
Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
Before I get on to the cold stuff a quick whistle stop summary of our adventures on our way to Franz Josef Glacier.
New Zealand weather is VERY changeable. It is not uncommon for us to start the day in woolly hats, gloves and lots of layers and end the day with suntan cream and floppy sun hats. Our second day in Westport was a gloomy and wet one. We headed to Karamea to walk the Fenian Track based in the Kahurangi National Park. This was a 20K forest walk that took us as far as the Sunshine Flat but sadly the sunshine was nowhere to be found! This was mainly an uneventful walk apart from when I was chased by a pesky Weka who was after my sandwich. As you know I love my food so the bird was not successful - just as well as it was a scrumptious chicken roll. He did successfully steal my foam seat though.
The drive along the Westcoast to Franz Joseph was really stunning - in my opinion far more scenic and spectacular than Highway 1 - California. We had a brief stop at Punakaiki to see the famous pancake rocks and blowholes. I guess you need to look at the photos to get a picture of what these are like. I loved them. The sea was in a pretty ferocious mood and the sound and sight of the sea crashing against the rocks was phenomenal. A must see if ever you find yourself in NZ.
As the sun was shining we decided to stop off and complete a nice little coastal walk called the Point Elizabeth Walkway. Part of the walk took us through an intriguing coastal forest with trees with equally intriguing names - Kieke-Kieke, Cabbage Tree, Supplejack and Nikau palms. The highlight for Stuart was capturing a brilliant picture of a dragonfly. I am sure it was dead though as it did not move one bit!
As we continued our drive I discovered that my family seem to own many of the creeks in the area as we spotted an Evans Creek, Fagan Creek and Cameron Creek. Cameron also has a town and road named after him! Other creek names include doughboy creek, boggy creek and nagbag creek.
The next day we awoke to torrential rain, perfect conditions for climbing the Franz Josef Glacier! To add to the excitement of the day there was a severe weather warning in place and expected rainfall of over 200mm. We arrived at the walking station fully expecting it to be cancelled but oh no, they are pretty hardy people in the West and the weather was not going to stop play.
Upon booking this guided trip we were told to wear at least four layers. Added to this was a heavy duty pair of waterproof trousers, rain jacket, clown-like walking boots, woolly hat, mittens and the all- important crampons. We all looked like little blue oompah-lumpah's but trust me every bit of clothing was needed.
After a short bus ride and walk to the base of the glacier we were ready to make our ascent just as the rain started to get stronger. We had a reasonably steep ice hill to climb and then made it on to the glacier which was an amazing sight. The climb was great fun and took us through thin crevasses and up and down manmade ice steps. The ice was tinged with clear aqua blue stripes and we saw some amazing ice holes. Despite it being as cold as ice and very wet we had a brilliant time and enjoyed the experience very much - especially the mug of hot chocolate at the end of the walk!
Happy 1st Birthday Verity.
Sabs we are thinking about you; don't forget to push hard when the time comes - look forward to hearing about the new arrival.
Belinda - we hope you enjoyed the Abel Tasman and that you did not get too wet.
Greg & Sheridan we hope you had a safe trip back to the states.
Ta, Ta for now.