Further down the west coast of the south island is glacier country, home to Franz Josef and Fox glaciers. At the base of each glacier is a small township, set up the influx of tourists and climbers that visit each glacier. Franz Josef township is slightly bigger, so we decided to spend our first night here. Unfortunately, the coast here is also subject to over 250 days of rain per year, and our visit here was no exception - it rained constantly for the 24 hours we were here! So much so, we cut our losses and left for sunnier climes, earlier than planned!!
The glaciers are huge and some of the quickest moving glaciers in the world. The glaciers have been retreating for years, although recently they have been advancing a little. There are signs to show you how far they reached at certain points in history. About 200 years ago, they were nearly 4km further down the cliff (approximately)! The fast flowing rivers at the bottom of each glacier, are amazingly clear and blue, although also extremely dangerous, as unexpected surges can cause huge waves and swell.
There are several short independent walks at the bases of each glacier, some leading to fantastic look outs over the glacier. On our first day we managed to take a short hike up a hill to get great views of the Franz Josef glacier, before we submitted to the downpours and headed back to the campsite like drowned rats!
He next morning we headed to Fox glacier, again in the rain, we took another short hike, hoping to get better views of the glacier, but due to the high rainfall, the river had become impassable so we had to turn back. Wet and cold again, we concluded enough was enough and headed out of the glacier region in search of the sun, which amazingly, as soon as we were out of the shadows from the mountains, we found! The mountains really acted as a catch for all the clouds coming over!