A relatively quick update (it will definately seem like it after the last one!), I stayed in Franz Josef for a couple of nights and did a full day ice hike on the glacier, it was awesome!
I'm still travelling with Paul and Arjan, we went up togethor in a group of about 10 with a guide, it has got to be one of the best days I've had so far. We spent 6 hrs on the ice, climbing over ice walls, walking along ridges, through crevices and caves all formed completely of ice. The sheer scale of it was just amazing, up to 70ft walls and a real variety of structures from pools, crevices and caves to wave shaped imposing ice walls that tower above you, brilliant!
The glacier is apparently formed by tons of snow which falls in a basin at the top of the mountain and over about 1 year compacts into ice, this gradually moves down the valley between the side of the mountain forming the glacier which we climbed on. This means the glacier is constantly moving and changing its structure, as a result the route and landscape is never the same and the guides have to go up early each morning and cut steps over a lot of the ridges in preperation. Then when the group comes to climb thier guide re-cuts a lot of the steps. This means you spend quite a bit of time waiting whilst they do this but it gives you more time to appreciate your surroundings and of course take cheesy pics.
Apparently they have 6m of rainfall a year there so we were fairly lucky with the weather which was mostly clear early on, rained a fair bit later on in the afternoon. The clouds were always above us rather than us being in them so we didn't really care as we still had awesome views of the glacier, mountain cliffs on both sides with several massive waterfalls running down each and down to the valley below. While we got a bit colder later on and when you stand around for too long, I was only wearing a t-shirt, fleece, rainjacket and shorts so it shows that its not as cold as you'd expect. We also had crampons on our boots of course which are always fun to stomp around in and give you suprisingly good control on the ice.
This has got to be my best activity so far, it just suprised me the scale of it all and the amount of different structures the end results was an experience that I loved every minute of and won't be forgetting any time soon. I would definately recommend it to anyone who has a chance to do something like this, it really is not that tough a real mixture of abilities did it and while a couple of people struggled and got a bit tired by the end everybody I know agreed it was well worth it. And the reward at the end of the day a nice sauna and hot pool at our hostel waiting to warm us up :)!
We're currently staying in wanaka we've got our 4th and last night here tonight before leaving for Queenstown tomorrow. I have to stay wanaka is a really nice place to stay, we've just been doing a mix of chilling and activities here but its real cool, its fairly small, has a relaxed atmosphere and yet is in a beautiful location and has loads of walks, climbing, water sports, air sports and downhill mountain biking trails (which is what my afternoon shall consist of) all to keep you occupied, great place!
Oh and yesterday we went on the coolest 1 day walk that I was told about by a couple of climbers, its called the rob roy glacier walk, you get a bus out there then walk up through a forest, next to roaring river and start to get glimpses of this glacier through the trees, then the next minute you round a corner and there's a massive glacier and waterfalls everywhere. That was a really cool days exploring, tho my sunglasses blew off and have been added to the lost items toll! doh!
One last thing, I have found 1 down side to NZ and I think this is the only one, I forgot to mention this before but they have these tiny flys that bite called sandflies. They only seem to be in certain areas of the country, but if you go on a walk sometimes you will find you've come back with about 5 or 10 bites, which add up, my legs/feet currently have about 30 i would guess but they only itch like hell if you scratch them so not too bad really. Anyway thats the only fault I can find so far so not really to bad at all.
Catch you all later