Moved off to Franz Josef, negotiating many twisting roads throughout this mountainous region and were rewarded with fantastic vistas. Arrived in Franz Josef with a fabulous of the Glacier. Upon arrival we were told that the hotel was in fact, fully booked but were offered an upgrade to their 5 star sister hotel - reluctantly we agreed! Actually it was a bit OTT for us in our flip flops and carrier bags of wine and beer but we managed to push through it. .
The whole resort was heaving and fully booked but managed to find a lovely restaurant with a fab view of the glacier- we have found out that the reason for this busyness within NZ is mainly due to the Chinese new year and hence many Chinese families here on holiday.
Fortunately we had already booked for the Glacier Helicopter ride and Glacier walk the next day and were both looking forward to the excursion. Arrived early to go through briefing and were given our outdoor clothing, boots and crampons (Sue a little worried as all beginning to look a little too serious!). Still both keen and with little preamble were whisked off by helicopter straight up the mountain, close to the forest then very quickly up and over with a dramatic drop into the glacier (quite an exclamation from Sue - not sure she was that impressed!!). Landed directly onto the glacier on a rough piece of ice and disembarked straight onto the icy, slippery and rough terrain to get clear of the helicopter (Sue now looking decidedly unimpressed). Further briefing provided (keep close, avoid the gaps and steer away from sheer edges) and crampons applied to boots (Sue more than a little worried now!).
The guide advised that we would be travelling for some 4 hours, 250m up the Glacier and as we were effectively the last group we were warned that the path might be eroded and slippery, (Sue actually wanted to backtrack now). Traversed the Glacier over some gaps and difficult passes which took some 90 minutes and then the guide offered the opportunity for the group to go through an ice cave and he delighted in adding that he had rarely seen such a lengthy cave. All agreed to go with it (Sue was actually really frightened now and too mute with terror to object!) It was really quite tight, long and slippery (Sue had definitely had enough now and was truly terrified!!). We managed our way through and got to see a waterfall close to the top and then Sue managed to get her own back by scaring the 20 something all too cocky guide by dissolving into tears and uncontrollably sobbing!! …... he didn't expect that one!
Stopped for 5 minutes to have refreshment and to get breath back (should have had a bar at the top!!), all agreed that it was a big haul and really quite challenging - happy to make our way back to helicopter pick up although unfortunately had to climb some 250m down again.
Once back in town Sue had 2 large, medicinal Vodka and tonics and then was able to speak again!
Finished off the afternoon in the hot pools and then out for a lovely meal for Valentine's Day with a great view over the pass.
Whilst writing this blog Sue has been keeping a handwritten journal and here goes the postscript for that day ……………
P.S "Thought I was going to die today and I will NEVER set foot on another glacier as long as I live"