Blog Day 229 Tuesday 20th December 2011
After a pretty good nights sleep we are up at 9am this morning and out of the room by 10am. After an eggy breakfast Dan gets to work trying to get us a discounted rate for a Franz Josef glacier walk tomorrow. This involves speaking to the lady who deals with group bookings, then phoning back home to get his Dad to send an introductory letter to the company, then waiting till we get to the glacier walk offices to see what the deal is.
We have a wander around Greymouth for about ½ hour, which allows us to get some money out and take in the beautiful weather. Before long we are back on the bus making our way towards Franz Josef.
The usual clipboard comes around the bus for people to put down their room preferences before we stop off to have a pretty pointless look around a Jade jewelry shop. Literally 10 minutes of walking around looking at rings and necklaces that no one could afford. As we get back on the bus Chooks informs us that the hostel/hotel only has 1 double room available and with 4 couples each requesting a double room we were going to have to fight it out amongst ourselves. 2 of the other couples straight away said that they would move into dorms we said we didn't mind but hung back a little to see what the other couple would say. They came back with the option of another hostel for the same price. Happy days! So three couples book into this other hostel leaving the remaining couple to snap up the last double room at the other one. SORTED.
We arrive at Franz Josef and inform Chooks that we have booked into another hostel. Upon hearing that another 2 couples had also booked into another hostel his wheels well and truly fell off! Now he was going to have to cancel the 6 dorm beds he had reserved, making him look bad. By now we have kind of gathered that Chooks is a few eggs short of a fry up. The thought never crossed his little mind to offer us an alternative hostel and just assumed we would all be happy with dorm beds. Now he was running around the place like a 'Chook' with his head cut off.
At the check in desk we meet up with Jen (the lady who is hopefully sorting us out) and she informs us that she has done us a 2 for 1 price on the full day hike. Bringing the cost down to $170 (£88). Nice one!
We are dropped off at our hostel for the night and are gutted to find that we are the only couple that hasn't got a discount on our room. The other 2 couples have a backpacker savings card, which gets them $6 (£3) off the price of their rooms. We both agree that we can let this one slide and keep quiet about the fact that we are paying half the price that they are for the trip tomorrow. HEHEHE.
This afternoon we have a quick wander around the town of Franz Josef which doesn't take long at all, then its back to the hostel for some instant noodle action and Home Alone playing on the TV. That movie always puts us in the Christmas mood.
Blog Day 230 Wednesday 21st December 2011
Franz Josef Glacier Hike
This morning we are up bright and early and off down to the Glacier Guides office. The weather this morning is stunning and the backdrop of the mountains looks like and advert for Airwaves chewing gum!
We get to the office and meet Jen (the lady who has sorted us out our deal) she's lovely and seems more than happy to have us there. Next we go through the motions of getting our hiking gear. The company supplies absolutely everything; we could have literally turned up stark k*** naked and still gone hiking (we didn't go that far!). We got given a hat, gloves, a rain jacket, trousers, socks, boots and real angry looking bits of metal that strap to the boots and help you walk on the ice. Happy Days. With all this stuff on though we are roasting so most of it get tucked away in the backpack for now.
A 10-minute bus journey followed by a 15 walk through the rainforest gets us down into the glacial valley (a valley that has been curved out by the glacier). The Franz Josef glacier is now in sight and its dam impressive! Our guides ask us how far away we think it is, answers of 500 to 750 meters are shouted out. Not even close. From where we are standing the front 'wall' of the glacier is 2.5 kilometers away! Everything surrounding us is so huge that the glacier does look really close. At this point we just know that pictures aren't going to do this place any justice. So with the sun still shining we still have a 2.5km walk to do before we even set foot on any ice. The walk takes us past a huge waterfall and along a river made up of glacial melt water.
At the foot of the glacier we stop for a breather before hiking up a hill of loose rock. At the top we get a crash course in how to strap on our hiking spikes (angry bits of metal that go on boots) and were off!
The next 5/6 hours were truly amazing. It puts the little hike we did in Abel Tasman to shame. The guides had gone out in the morning and cut 'steps' in the ice to make it easier to hike, this in itself was quite surreal. We walk through corridors of ice that stretch up around 30ft high, 2 or 3ft wide and are the bluest of blue! Waterfalls are pouring off the valley sides and we come across the odd waterfall actually on the glacier, here we take the opportunity to fill up our water bottle (actually Dan takes the opportunity and gets thoroughly soaked as Trish watches and laughs and take photos). Crevasses in the ice range from 15ft wide down to about 2inches wide and all of the go from white to blue to back as you look down them. In some places the ice has caved in causing giant holes that are around 80meters deep, and if they weren't pointed out to us we would have easily fallen down them. Of course the stupid 'German' members of our group did decide to get a little to close for the guides comfort. Our guide was only a little girl but she made a lot of noise in order to get them to step away! Bloody Germans!
At the top of our hike we took a seat and unpacked our sandwiches, as well as our raincoats. Once we had stopped moving the cold kind of hit us. Having said that I can't think of anywhere else more beautiful that I've eaten a sandwich! The views back down the valley are breath taking, and when we look up to the top of the glacier it too blows us away. The top of our hike takes us about half the up the glacier and after lunch we get on the move again. Wandering around in our group we come across a couple of ice caves (which of course we pose for photos in) and an amazing little area of ice that has been carved out by melt water forming a hole into which a waterfall fell. We are able to get quite close to this hole as the area around it was pretty safe, which made for some great pictures.
The 2 side of the glacier are amazingly different in appearance. The right hand side is full of "ice blocks" forming crevasses with a very square and edgy look, whereas the left hand side looked like more of a sea of ice. Instead of the ice looking square it looked more wavy and had more of a flow to it (that's the best way we could describe it really!)
The hike back down the glacier is just as impressive as the hike up and by this time the camera battery is almost flat. One the way down a few of the soppy Germans, who had turned up in full 'North Face' mountaineering clobber, decided to fall arse over tit. We couldn't help but have a little snigger to ourselves.
So with bloodied Germans and aching feet we made our way back to the bus, which took us back into town. It's safe to say that we are knackered! However upon purchasing our full day hike we were issued with 2 passes to the glacial hot pools. We take a stroll down there after dumping our bags at the hostel and all we can say is WOW! Three pools set in the open-air rainforest that range from 36 degrees to 40 degrees. We head straight for the 38degree pool and within 30 seconds every muscle in our bodies is relaxed! Especially the ones in our poor feet.
After about an hour and a half of soaking and relaxing our tummies start to grumble. So we dry off and go for a bite to eat at the Monsoon Bar. 2 $12 pizzas and a few beers work a treat, and its not long before we are walking back to the hostel in need of our bed.
And so ends probably one of the best activity days we've had this year!