Today has to be the best day of vacation travel I've ever had!
A couple days ago, a few of us signed up for a helicopter tour of the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers and Mt. Cook. Since the weather has to be perfect for these trips to take off, we booked a Saturday afternoon trip and a Sunday morning trip to give us two chances. We were disappointed on Saturday afternoon as the clouds were too low for take-off, but Sunday morning the clouds had thinned and we were given a go for the trip.
Four of us went together in the same helicopter. We took off as the sun was breaking over the mountains and through the clouds. First we flew up the path of the Franz Joseph glacier with the pilot turning one way and then the other has he rose to give everyone a view. You could see the path of the glacier as it slides down the mountain and disappears into the clouds below us.
Once we had reached a high enough altitude, we circled Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman, the two highest peaks in New Zealand at over 12000 ft. After going around the mountains, we arrived at the Fox Glacier where we landed on the snow field above the glacier. We got out, took pictures, watched other helicopters land and take off, threw snow balls at each other and just marveled at what we were doing and where we were.
After lifting off again, the pilot quickly descended, zigzagging across the face of the glacier, looking down into the ice crevasses. As we dropped below the tree line, we looked for deer in the forest and saw waterfalls cascading down the mountainside. What a thrilling trip!!!
The pilot told us that while most glaciers in the world are receding, the glaciers in New Zealand are actually advancing. These are also two of the lowest altitude glaciers in the world making access to them quite easy. So, hopefully, these will be here for people to experience for many generations to come.
After landing the whole group drove south and began the crossing of the Southern Alps toward Christchurch. This crossing will take the next three days of riding plus a rest day in Queenstown. Today we started riding at the top of the Haast Pass and spent the afternoon riding along postcard perfect mountain lakes to reach Wanaka. Tomorrow we'll continue on to Queenstown, the adventure capital of New Zealand. After today's adventure, I don't know how Queenstown can beat what we've already done, but I'm looking forward to trying!