As with all the journeys through the South Island of New Zealand, the trip from Nelson to Franz Josef was a stunning journey that hugged the coast before dipping into the mountains before arriving at Franz Josef. Along the journey we stopped for lunch at Dolomite Point where we had time to walk around and see the Pancake Rocks, the rock formation of the coast that gets it's name from looking like a stack of pancakes.
Once at Franz Josef, the bus conveniently stopped outside my hostel; YHA Franz Josef, which for a YHA (I never imagine them to be that good) but this was awesome. A huge dorm door, a big but cosy lounge with a real fire to make it cosy and warm against the bitter cold and free soup each evening. My first night was catching up with Nellie for a beer and to say goodbye to her as it was the last time we were crossing over. Franz Josef is a small town with a few hostels, a supermarket and couple of shops and bars/restaurants but worth a stop in even if just to see the glacier.
Pleased that for my first day the sun was shining, I picked up some bits from the supermarket, checked that the route I was planning on walking was open at the tourist information centre; I set off in search of the glacier. It's a 5km walk to the car park but the views make it a non-tedious walk, surround by snow capped mountains and a winding river. Once at the car park I selected to do the Robert's Point Track a 12.3km round trip to a viewing platform of the glacier. The walk started with Peter's Pool, a insanely still lake that provides a picture perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains. At the official start of Robert's Point I was greeted with a sign telling me how dangerous the track was without being a serious seasoned hiker, along with snippets and stories about people dying and being washed away, brilliant and who knew I was doing this trek?! Oh well, I can turn back if it gets bad, so off I went. The trek up to the viewing platform was tough going in places but overall it was a brilliant hike; walking across swing bridges and up steps built into the side of a mountain. When I got to the platform, I found a group had also just arrived before me so I didn't feel quite so isolated. But the view of the glacier was amazing. It was so white and blue and could see the helicopters landing on it for the tourists to walk on the ice. I decided against doing this as I had booked a skydive for the following day over the glacier. The trek back down was easy and quick and I ended up walking back with the Germans I had met at the top, as I caught up with them on the day down.
Back down at the bottom the weather tried to take a turn for the worse, but not quite getting there but it cast a beautiful rainbow down the valley with the sun on one side and the rain on the other. Back at the hostel , it was great to go into the sauna for a chill out and let the legs recover before tucking into the free soup.
The following day, I was gutted to see that the weather was horrible and looked no signs at easing up. I contacted that skydiving guys who confirmed that the rain looked set to be in for the day so they were cancelling the dives for the next couple of days. Gutted!!! So the day was spent chilling in the hostel, in front of the fire and doing very little. Before it eased up early evening so I ventured out for a pizza and a beer for retreating back to the sauna and bed.
The next morning, I was half awake getting ready to get up for my bus to Queenstown when suddenly I was aware of the bed and windows rattling and it took me a few moments to realise that I was experiencing my first earthquake. But no sooner had it started and then it stopped. I later found out from the bus driver it was 4.3 on the Richter Scale. Not quite a skydive but still an experience in itself.
Time to see Queenstown and Milford Sound.