Our first night in Franz Josef, we really took advantage of the amenities – we went in the free sauna! It was so relaxing and warming in the chilly mountains (50*F—brrr!).
For dinner, we couldn’t resist the frozen boxes of mac n cheese on sale for nz$3 at the market. Comfort food never tasted so good!
We also got a cheap as bag of anzac biscuits. Anzac biscuits are a crunchy sort of oatmeal, cocunut, and molasses/honey cookie. They are delicious!
They also have some historical significance that I need to look up. Edited to add: My glacier guide told me the Anzac soldiers were sick of having their muesli as porridge so they baked it into chookies! I can’t wait to get my hands on a good recipe and make them once I’m back in the States! Any kiwi readers like to share a recipe?
In the morning, we woke up to visit Matheson Lake first things after sunrise. Supposedly, in the early morning there are stellar views of the mountains reflected in the still lake. We couldn’t wait to see!
The hike was a little over an hour and took us around the lake and to a few viewpoints. But the sky just didn’t want us to see anything today, I guess:
It was still a beautiful, peaceful way to start the day. We got to see some wildlife up close! Here is a pukeko:
Though I admit, the pukeko isn’t exactly a wild animal here. They are all over the place! They look so exotic, though!
After the walk, we visited the Matheson Cafe.
On a good day, there are spectacular views of the surrounding high peaks, including Mount Cook, the highest one in New Zealand.
To try and cheer ourselves up, we split a slice of carrot cake…
…and a banana apricot muffin.
It worked! My soy latte was fabulous, too 😉
After our refreshments, we took a long and windy gravel road through the rainforest to get to a beach we had heard was nice, Gillespies Beach.
Maybe on a sunny day it’s nice…
It’s safe to say that we didn’t stay long. The road was also lined with all these bizarre-looking sheep!
Most of the roads are lined with sheep farms, but these ones looked so overgrown and wild!
We spent the afternoon browsing tourist shops, trying to bide our time and wait to for the sky to clear. Lunch was a fabulous PB&J!
Well, I like to tell myself it is. I try and image the typical PB&J on white bread with super-sweet grape jelly and smooth, salty, and sugary peanut butter. It makes me enjoy my “harvest wholemeal” bread with strawberry rhubarb preserves, and chunky, no-sugar-added peanut butter. Still cheap as anything, but more wholesome.
Soon we decided the weather was too gloomy to do anything outdoorsy, we headed to the hostel for an afternoon of chilling out.
We did some laundry (this rouge tea towel ended up in our load) and blogged, but most importantly, we played games! The Franz Josef YHA was well-stocked with board games. We started by playing Scategories, but since there was no working timer, we improvised with the alarm on my phone.
I pretty much killed Hannah, but it evens out because she always creams me at rummy.
For dinner, I boiled some pasta and then added more pumpkin and garlic soup-in-a-pouch and a can of corn to make a sort of Pumpkin Corn Noodle chowder.
With some rosemary, oregano, salt, and pepper, it was honestly super delicious!
After dinner, we played a very rowdy game of pictionary. We basically just chose a word from a Pictionary card at random and saw how fast we could get the other to guess what it was. Some notables were baby sweetcorn (what even is that?), my progressively strange-looking horses, my “goldfish America”, spit, passport (for the life of my I could NOT guess it lol!), loch ness monster (I guessed with incredible speed), “it would be hard to kill a fly with a screwdriver!”, non-alcoholic beer, and cloakroom. We were laughing so hard (and getting a lot of stares) and having a romping good time. It was an Easter I’ll never forget!
The next day was what we had been waiting for…time to hike Fox Glacier!
We arrived to the office early, so we fueled up with a savory scone (cheese and tomato) and a muffin (chocolate and strawberry), which were both fresh hot out of the oven. They were both shockingly delicious!
Soon it was time to get all geared-up. We put on solid-soled boots and got fitted crampons (spikes for the bottoms of our boots), the boarded the bus to the terminal face (where the glacier starts).
It felt a bit stilly, but I had been so nervous about being disappointed by the glacier. I had hyped up this portion of the trip so much in my mind, plus yesterday’s weather had turned out to be a flop, that I was nervous it wouldn’t meet my expectations.
And I was right, it didn’t meet my expectations. The first glimpse of the glacier completely exceed them above and beyond an measure I could imagine!
The glacier was absolutely unforgettable. It was MASSIVE.
Made completely out of ice, it is immensely powerful. I was surprised at how dynamic it is. In the past ten years, the glacier and receded and growth forward again a dramatic length.
Our guide told us that on any given day, the features of the glacier will change, such as crevasses, waterways, and caves.
Just to begin our hike we had to climb through a huge crevasse.
We were lucky enough to see some large arches, but the ice cave stole the show.
All of these features of the glacier are created by water drainage. It was so incredible so see how strong it is: it can move rocks the size of 2-story houses!
At the same time, it was also very pure.
All of the water on the glacier is drinkable and tasted like pure, clear ice water!
The ice appears blue, it’s such a beautiful sight! This is because it is so dense that the only color able to penetrate through it.
I loved the feeling of being on the glacier.
I felt so delicate and vulnerable, yet on top of the world. It was not very difficult to hike, it wasn’t very steep and I soon got used to taking intentional, forceful steps into the ice. Plus, our guide was able to carve paths to make our trail smoother.
The cool thing was that we didn’t have a trail, we were just exploring! At one point, someone asked about a hole on one side of the glacier, and our guide said, “I don’t know, I haven’t seen that before. Let’s go check it out!”
As we got higher and higher on the glacier, I felt like I was being taken farther and farther away from civilization, and I love that feeling. I love the feeling that no one is around, and I am the first person to be there. I should be a fundamentalist.
Climbing the glacier was a lot more frightening that I had thought (one slip and I could be stuck in a bone-crushing shaft) but it was also much more peaceful than I thought.
Our guide was very knowledgeable and was able to tell us all about the history of the glacier. In the 60s, before environmental preservation was of anyone’s concern, people would just leave their trash on the glacier, and it occasionally turns up, preserved by the ice!
We found a can of beans. He also told us about the Maori history around the glacier. An important ancestor was climbing the glacier to collect sharp rocks for axes and such, and he was killed. Fox Glacier remains his final resting place. His lover was so distraught by his death that she cried a river of tears which froze, creating the neighboring glacier, Franz Josef. What is incredible is that a birds-eye view of the glacier shows that they are in fact in the shape of teardrops. HOW were they possibly able to know that?! My entire experience on the glacier was dizzying, and it was a day I will never forget.
It ended up being a cloudy day, but it didn’t matter much because I had the following layers on: thermasilk, smartwool, waffle thermal, sweatshirt, and rain jacket. Plus, views of the glacier weren’t obscured because, well, you are right on top of it! At the end of the day, it began to clear up and we got a few glimpses of that beautiful blue sky.
I’m sure you’ll believe me that after a full day hike on the glacier, we were exhausted. We dragged ourselves to the store to get some spaghetti for dinner (with leftover pasta sauce) and snag some sale post-Easter cadbury. Hannah has been dying for a chocolate bunny, so she grabbed the last one.
That left me with Charlie the Easter Chick. Who, upon undressing of foil, just looked like a bunny without ears.
The first bit was a struggle (do it bite it? cut it? break it?) but it was well worth it because it was delicious!
Plus, I had a creme egg. Hannah was weirded out by how it looks like a real egg inside (hence the yolk) but I think it’s an Easter novelty that no one should be without!
I was pleased that the only good chocolate easily obtainable in Franz Josef was Cadbury, my favorite! Needless to say, we were pretty slap-happy as we enjoying our ridiculous animal-product candies.
Things got even funnier when we met some fellow AUT study abroad students! Felix, Luis, and Carlos are from Mexico and have been doing the opposite loop of the South Island as we are doing. We were crossing paths at the halfway mark! They were telling us hilarious stories of their past travels, all in perfect English! They were a really fun bunch, it was so nice to meet them, and we are excited to hang out back in Auckland together!
On to Queenstown tomorrow!