I happily left Greymouth the next day on the first of my Magic bus trips and was welcomed into a group that had been travelling together for the past few days. We all soothed out hangovers with some chillout music as we headed along the west coast through green fields dotted with sheep with the ocean to out right and the snow capped mountains to our left. We had a stop in Hokitika, famous for jade stone carvery, before heading up into the mountains and arriving in the small town of Franz Josef around midday. There is no reason for the town to be there other than as a starting point to the Franz Josef glacier, and so is therefore made for tourists. Those who were doing the half day glacier hike jumped off whereas I had been told that the full day hike was well worth doing and so stayed a night and had the afternoon to wander around. My afternoon was spent making essential onward bookings but once the rudimentaries were done with I headed off on a short walk around the town. Having heard of a walk through some old mining tunnels, I enthusiastically set off to find them, only once finding them realised I would need a torch to see anything and so being to scared to head into the pitch black, I retreated back to my hostel and watched some of the Olympics!
The next morning we were ready and waiting at 8am to climb the Franz Josef glacier which towered over the town. We got kitted up in our thermal gear and crampons before catching a bus to the bottom of the glacier and setting off on our day of hiking. The glacier looked so impressive as it spilled down between the mountains and it was so big that you lost perspective when looking at it and it seemed only a few hundred metres away but was infact a couple of kilometres away. Once at the start of the ice, we put our crampons on our shoes and set to work, digging into the freshly laid steps that the guides had made that morning. After a steep climb we had an amazing view of the valley below before we headed into the ice, starting with a crevasse that we could barely fit through! Luckily none of us were claustrophobic as we squeezed through the huge walls of deep blue ice that were absolutely mind blowing. We then headed up towards the top of the glacier, passing through the white wilderness, up and over cliffs of ice and after lunch we headed into some unmarked terrain. With the knowledge of our guide, we cut our way through the ice, avoiding the deep freezing pools of water every so often and climbed up to the highlight of the day, a tunnel of blue ice! We crawled through, all of us amazed by the colour of the ice we were standing in, you really have to see it to believe it! After numerous photos, we trekked through huge towering blocks of ice and ambushed another group of trekkers with snowballs!! We were however not so lucky ourselves as we turned a corner to find ourselves pelted! On the way down we had to climb across streams of freezing water, the odd person getting there feet wet and frozen before we finally arrived back at the bus late afternoon, all of us shattered from a hard days work! Back at the hostel we all collapsed and fell asleep infront of the TV, satisfied with our trekking and sight seeing! The glacier has definitely been one of the highlights of my travels, once again it's just something so completely different that I would never be able to experience at home. Can't wait to put some photos up to show you guys the colour of the ice! Unfortunately the computers over here aren't great so will have to try again in the next few days. Next stop on the Magic bus...Queenstown!