We headed out of Westport towards Franz Josef village. There are two big glaciers on the west coast of the south island. One is the Fox and the other Franz Josef. We only have time for one so FJ it is. It was discovered by an Austrian chap called Haast who has a town named after him. Now you have to assume he was after something because instead of calling it the Haast glacier he named it after the emperor of Austria, Franz Josef.
Anyway I digress. The west coast of the south island is similar in many ways to the west coast of Ireland and Scotland. It is green, beautiful, rugged and it rains a lot.
We always knew this may be a damp patch (ooer) in the journey. It didn't disappoint. A few miles out of Westport and it started raining. Still it doesn't rain inside the camper. In fact it made the drive a bit different. We travelled a lot of coastal road and the sea was angry and looked amazing. The waves were big and smashed against the rocks. I love the sea and am always in awe of its power.
After a long drive interspersed with a gorgeous caramel slice in a small town shop we arrived in Franz Josef. It's one street with a few bars and souvenir shops and the booking office for the glacier trips.
The glacier walk had been right at the top of Jill's wish list for NZ and here it was peeing with rain. We asked the chap at the camp site about the weather. He said it was forecast to rain tomorrow but the glacier walk would still go ahead.
As the evening drew on it started to dry up but then rained over night. We woke early to be ready for an 8.15 pick up.It had tried out and we kept everything crossed. We were dropped off at the company office which was busy. Lots of different trips leaving.
We booked in and signed the usual disclaimer, you know 'we do not accept liability if you die on our trip'. We collected our crampons and made our way to the bus. It was full.
A short drive to a car park and the guides explained they would split us into groups of 10. They ran it very well setting off at intervals so during the day you didn't see everyone else.
Anyway, off the bus and a short hike through the bush. We came out on to what looked like a dried river bed. We could see the glacier bottom. It looked about about 800 yards away. It was actually 2.5 kms. It is huge.
Where we were stood was where the glacier used to start around 200 years ago. Makes you think.
So we headed off across the scree and moraine (technical terms) until we arrived at the base of the glacier. We put on our crampons. If you've never used them they are like old fashioned roller skates but with spikes not wheels.
We set off to climb the glacier. Its about 11 kms in length so we were not going the whole way. Thats a helicopter trip.
This was yet another first. We've climbed on fells all over England but this was something else. We traversed the glacier climbing up ice walls. Then we would climb down into a crevasse or through an ice hole. At one point we squeezed through a passage, shoulder width with walls of ice either side. Another unforgettable experience. We spent about 4 hours on the ice zig sagging around climbing ice walls with crampons and ice picks.
All to soon we had to descend and return to base. It was just a little taste of proper mountaineering. Jill and I felt like proper adventurers.
We are now shattered and in the camper. A lazy day travelling tomorrow then the next its Jet Boating. I feel the need, the need for speed ....whooooooo hooooooo.