Franz Joseph, 13th - 18th August 2010
Franz Joseph is home to a 15km Glacier, rainforest, hot pools and sky diving. We decided to stay 4 nights as we wanted to do a full day's Glacier hike.
It amazes me how small some of these towns are. When we got here we went for a walk to 'the high street' which consists of a tiny supermarket, 2 souvenir shops, a coffee shop, a combined bar & restaurant, a petrol station and 2 local activity stores. Add the 3 hostels to the list which are located at the back of the high street (and all next to each other) and in a nutshell that is Franz Joseph.
So after our walk, we decided to take over the living room and watched Good Morning Vietnam, Vertical Limit (just what you need when you are climbing a Glacier the next day) and Bad Boys. We had noodles again for dinner - only one more night and then I'm not eating them for a month!
We got up early (around 7 for everyone who thinks I lay in bed til midday each day) and walked a whole 2 minutes to the Hiking adventure store.
We had our safety briefing, got changed into our hiking trousers, coats and boots, and collected our spikes, hats and gloves.
We all piled on to the bus and before we left one of the guides called Joe made us all promise 4 times that we had the red bum bag with the crampons in. It was like a comedy sketch:
Joe: Does everyone have this red bag with the spikes in?
Everyone on bus: Yes Joe
Joe: Are you sure?
Joe: Are you really sure?
Joe: Do you promise?
Us: (shouting) Yes!
Seriously we want to go on a Glacier hike, not for a little slide around the ice. They must get some frickin imbeciles on here.
So anyway, we got dropped off at the edge of the rainforest which we hiked through for about 15 minutes before arriving on the plateau in front of the mountains and Glacier. This is very much an optical illusion as the mountains are so big it makes you think the distance to the Glacier will only take 5 minutes or so to walk. However it was 2.2km hike over rocks and through streams before the accent to the Glacier even began. We then reached the area signifying we were leaving a 'safe zone' and were entering the Glacier where rock falls and ice slides were to be expected. We were told that the next bit was the most difficult as it was extremely steep terrain. Difficult?! It was an almost vertical wall of rock and dirt with a small zig zag path trodden in! It took about 45 minutes to scale it and everyone was knackered before we had even stepped foot on the ice. Not surprising none of this had so much of a mention in the leaflet.
We strapped on the crampons and started trekking up the ice. The crampons are absolutely wicked but it does take a while to trust them as you have to stomp on the ice for the spikes to go in. To start with there were so many times I thought I was about to fall over, as every instinct you have tells you that you can't walk like that on ice, but they stopped me every time. Our guide was called Jason and he was absolutely brilliant. He had already been up on the Glacier since 7am carving steps out of the ice and for the whole 5 hours on the ice he was constantly running up and down, carving more steps, triggering small rock slides and carving new streams to move any water away from where we were walking.
I've labelled up all of the photos as much as I can so you can all see what we were climbing over, as it's much easier to describe it in each pic than in my blog. It was an absolutely superb day - one of the best I've had so far on this trip. We were trekking through ice caves, sliding through ice tunnels, walking up vertical walls with steps cut out whilst pulling ourselves up with a rope, squeezing our way through what can only be described as cracks in the ice and walking along narrow ledges with huge drops - whilst everyone's saying "don't look down" (of course I'm going to look down if you tell me not too). They should tell you to leave all instincts and fear of dying by plunging to your death at the door - you've just got to close your eyes, jump and hope for the best!
I would highly recommend this day out to anyone who comes here - just as long as you aren't claustrophobic, are a professional contortionist and take a spare pair of socks! Hahaha. Here's what happens when you feet are slipping ever so slightly in your boots.
We stopped for lunch about 1pm and everyone was absolutely starving by this point. We all found a nice lump of ice, put our jackets down to sit on and dug our heels in so we wouldn't end up at the bottom. My heels had been rubbing all morning and as soon as we stopped I could feel the lack of skin of the back of them. Jason said he had some blister tape and when I took my boots off, Selena, Gemma and I all nearly threw up at the sight of them. It is making my skin crawl now just thinking about it. The blister tape wasn't like a plaster it was just tape, so he said when I came to take it off later it would also rip off the rest of the blister skin. Yuck!!!! We came up with the only logical solution - to head to the pub afterwards and then attempt it. I won't bore you all with the disgusting details of getting this tape off my feet, but needless to say it took quite a while and hurt like hell! Stupidly 10 minutes after getting the tape off I then attempted to have a shower. OMFGG - taking the tape off was nothing compared to this! Selena was in the cubicle next to me and was cracking up laughing at my running commentary. I gave up in the end as was sitting on the shower floor, with my legs outside the shower so the water wouldn't touch them, as whenever it did it felt like they were on fire. My ankles swelled up to what can only be described as Elephant feet and I could barely walk for 2 days as my tendons felt like they were going to snap. :(
That night was also the last night of our Noodles for diner challenge. Yay! OMG we felt like such students, but it saved us a small fortune. :)
Thankfully we had 2 solid days of chilling out before heading off to Queenstown, so we lazed around in flip flops and with our jeans rolled up, so the air could get to our heels.We spent Monday & Tuesday watching videos, blogging, sorting photos and cooking.
On Tuesday lunchtime the heating packed up and we were trying to heat the giant living and dining room with 4 gas hobs. The nutty little man who ran the place kept coming in wondering why all the hobs were on - erm because we're not frickin Eskimos! I decided to start cooking that days lunch, dinner and the next days lunch too, just to get some warmth into the place. Selena came down and started cracking up as she said I looked like a contestant on Ready, Steady, Cook. Hehehe.
By the evening it was so cold that we were wrapped in our coats, but unable to put any shoes or socks on cos of our heels. There was only one thing for it - to consume vast quantities of Chocolate and to watch crappy old movies. :) We picked Parenthood (the one from the 80's - absolutely brilliant!)