24th- 25th April
We stopped at Hokitikia on the way to Franz Josef and spent some time in a computer shop sorting our pics out and doing some research for Auz. We are hoping to extend our time in NZ so we have emailed STA about a flight change. We will just see what happens..
After Hokitikia we set back off on highway 6 down the glacier explorer route to Franz Josef. It was a pretty cloudy day so coming into Franz Josef we couldn't see any of the snow capped mountains. The weather forecast for the next couple of days isn't looking good and if the rain is as predicted then the helicopters won't be able to fly meaning there won't be any trips available to the glaciers. Both Franz and Fox glaciers are only accessible by helicopter now due to them both receding and the flooding of a river at Fox. We decided that Franz Josef glacier looked like the best glacier to do- even though they both look amazing! Franz is higher and Fox is larger so it was a tough call but we were hoping for a better climb! We originally thought of doing the HeliHike with the scenic helicopter ride but were swayed when two different people advised that the Ice Explorer may be better as it is more challenging. You have 3 hours on the ice instead of 2 and the HeliHike one is more suited to older people and families. On the plus side too, the Ice Explorer was $100 each cheaper. We managed to get booked on in the morning for the trip with Franz Josef Glacier Guides and even though it wasn't certain that we would be able to go out, it was looking like the best day weather wise for the next week so fingers crossed!! The trip would be $315 each (suppose to be $325 each but we have a $10 off voucher). It's more like two trips in one as we get a helicopter ride there and back too!
For the night we stayed at the only free parking spot near Franz Josef that was on the campermate app- Doherty Creek. We asked at the iSite if there were any freedom camping places in the area and they said no but campermate says it's okay to stay here. It was just a gravel area off the main road- and the bylaw for Westland does state that if self contained you can park on council public land as long as there are no signs prohibiting overnight camping. Others arrived later after us too. Once we were set for the night the clouds began to clear a bit and eventually to our surprise out popped Mt. Tasman and Mt. Cook, the two biggest mountains in New Zealand! They were a marvellous sight!! We had been waiting and hoping for a while to see them!! They were both covered in snow on the top and were both huge!
On the 25th when we woke up it was grey, miserable and raining already so we knew deep down that the trip would be cancelled, which it was! It was pretty gutting but we were prepared for it since we got up, plus they had to cancel all the trips for the day, not just ours and possibly for the next couple of days. The rain is expected to be bad up until Tuesday (it is now Saturday), when it may (or may not) clear up for the day, and then may be windy again Wednesday. We decided we couldn't wait around for that long so we would head South and then come back up when the weather looked better, just for the trip. They advised us to book on for Tuesday but ring Monday to see what the prediction was and if it wasn't looking good, keep moving the booking date until we got on the trip!
We decided to try and make the most of the day and drove to the car park for the glacier and did the sentinel rock walk to see how far the glacier had receded and then the Franz Josef Glacier valley walk where we walked to the terminal face of the glacier. We walked along the rocky valley of where the glacier once was- it has receded so much it's unbelievable! The weather was still rainy and dull so we couldn't fully appreciate the glacier in all it's glory!! But we did get to see it through the cloud and it looked amazing! The rock face and the ice were so blue! Our waterproofs came to use eventually too and they more than did the trick! We didn't get wet at all!
We then decided to head down to Fox Glacier town and go see what we could see there.