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!
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!
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.
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.
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.
The glacier was absolutely unforgettable. It was MASSIVE.
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.
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.
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!