So where’d we leave off? Driving south along the west coast? It’s getting dark? Okay, so darkness falls and where are we? Not at the glaciers yet (pronounced glassy-uhs in Kiwi). We tried. As it grew dark we were nearly half an hour from Franz Josef, the first glacier. And where is half an hour north of Franz Josef? Hercules Mountain. Jeez, talk about the most exciting night drive ever! Andrew did a masterful job of driving through the mountain and in the spirit of Easter Weekend, even swerved to avoid a rabbit that dashed out onto the road as we passed, but alas, I’m fairly certain Andrew killed the Easter Bunny. Sorry kids.
We arrived at a Glowworm Backpackers for the evening and picked up some keys left on the counter for us and checked in to our humble abode for the evening (right). As our flatmate had exclaimed after his travels through the south, one of the most exciting things about arriving somewhere after dark was waking up to find out what stunning and different place you were in when the sun came up.
Quite a bit chillier than some of our other stops, we layered on the thermals and went in search of some glaciers in the morning. Our first stop was Franz Josef Glacier. Tucked away just out of town and through a bit of rain forest Andrew and I set out for an early morning walk to the terminal face.
This might be as good a time as any to address something you may have noticed. Any photographs taken utilizing any zoom will likely have a jarring discoloration in the upper left hand corner. Some deliberation was had as to purchasing a new camera, but instead I did my best to avoid the zoom. I did take my camera to a camera shop, but there was nothing to be had. My camera is just getting old and the lens has corroded. Fortunately, for the majority of the trip, the corroded lens was the only problem. Around Mt Sunday, the software in my camera crapped out and every fourth or fifth time I turned my camera on, it either refused to turn on, or turned on and froze, refusing to take pictures. So, if you like the photos in the blog, hang in there, I’ll save up for a new camera, hopefully before too many more adventures. I have been putting off buying another camera because I was hoping to be able to afford a really nice camera, but alas, I think I’ll probably go for another, more affordable, point and click and keep funding adventures. Any camera experts out there, I’d appreciate any advice! Maybe I should see if there are any camera blogs out there. Hmmm.
So what else was in store after the lamentation of the camera? A long walk. The glacier is HUGE! And like most of the beauty of New Zealand, no matter how technical a camera you have, the awesomeness just will not come across in the photos. Andrew and I saw the walk and thought to ourselves, this shouldn’t take long. But it did. We walked. And walked. And walked. Past waterfalls and lots of rocks…
The shadows are much more prominent in the photos, but fear not, the next glacier is much easier to see from the lookout. The glacier is an ever changing one, moving between 1 and 5 meters in a given day! As the glaciers are so active, falling rocks and ice are a real danger so it’s inadvisable to get too close. There are often several deaths due to tourists venturing out onto the glaciers without guidance. I had no problem heeding their advice. Just looking at how the glacier cuts through the rocks was enough to keep me a safe distance away from such active glaciers.
So now that we’ve had a taste of the glaciers we wanted to check out more at Fox Glacier. While it’s supposed to be smaller, you’re able to get closer to it and the walk was supposed to be shorter (they didn’t mention the steeper part though). We put the next glacier into the GPS and about this time realized that we’d always thought our little TomTom had a little drinking problem, but it turns out he is a raging alcoholic. Scared from all the crazy turns and cliffs, the GPS refused to lay off the bottle and more often then not we could not rely on old TomTom. He’d think we were 20 km away in the middle of a lake or a ditch or on top of a mountain. Shame. We drove a dozen minutes or so to the next glacier and set off for another brief walk.
So to help you get an idea of how big the glaciers are, look very closely at the photo below. This is the top of the glacier. In the bottom right hand quadrant is a man, a department of conservation worker, on the glacier. See him? He’s smaller than an ant in the photo, standing upright, with his arm out to the left.
So that’s it folks. Glaciers! We saw them and nothing will ever make me feel as small ever again. (Well, except for all the other huge mountains in New Zealand! And tall people, and well…) It’s crazy to think that these bodies of ice have shaped a lot of what is New Zealand today, and continues to change the landscape every day! Further in our adventures we saw many lakes and mountains and fjords that were shaped by glaciers years ago. Makes you wonder what these areas will look like decades from now!
On the way back to the car we found a rock that looked like Andrew’s home state, and snapped a quick shot of the stunning blue and green lake formed from the glacial run-off. Enough excitement for the morning, we next sought out the Haast Pass as we continued our way south.