20th September 2004 - Franz Josef Glacier
Happy Birthday Joo!!
From Hokitika, we headed south to Franz Josef village. The Dutch explorer, Abel Tasman, was the first to discover the glacier in 1642 as he sailed along the coast looking for somewhere to keep his beers chilled! But it was not until 1862 that it received its name from Austrian explorer Julius von Haast, in honour of the emperor of Austria.
We hadn't booked ahead and unfortunately, the heli hike was all booked up. The helicopters can only fly up to the glacier in good conditions and as today was glorious sunshine everyman and his dog wanted to get up there.
We booked for first thing in the morning and crossed our fingers (and everything else) that the sun would shine the next day.
( Click on the' Read More' to see the pictures. )
Franz Josef village isn't exactly a sprawling metropolis and with a full day to kill, we pottered about the place trying to fill time.
You can do a short walk up to the base of the glacier, so we went over to see what to expect tomorrow.
We were staying at the Rainforest Retreat which had a bar, so we grabbed a spot in there and got pretty much sozzled. Well, Joo did! It was her birthday after all, but that has to be the most drunk I have ever seen her and I've been with her 12 years!
We met a load of peeps from all over the place and she had 'Happy Birthday' sang to her in English, Gaelic, Hebrew, Dutch and Kiwi (This was very ad hoc and just had 'bro' and 'sweet as' thrown in at random points of the song!).
Joo was not a pretty sight, first thing the next morning. Nursing a very bad hangover, she reluctanly agreed to do the heli hike.
Armed with a big bottle of water and a packet of aspirin, we wandered over to the Heli Hike place to get kitted out with jackets, gloves and ice talonz.
Our guides asked us to choose a group to join - the 'Espresso' group or the 'Latte' group. The 'Espresso' were the ones carving the path that the slow 'Latte' group would follow. With Joo not being 100%, we opted for the 'Latte' group.
The weather was sunny but for a few clouds and the sky was buzzing above with the sound of helicopters. Our helicopter was up there somewhere, ferrying people and kit up to the top of the glacier.
Our turn finally came to board the chopper and Lee managed to bag a front seat up with the pilot. The pilot flew up and over the glacier and then back down to our makeshift helipad in the ice, that'd been prepared by our guide Nicky earlier.
We landed on the ice and it was so weird to be walking on top of the glacier. Once the chopper had left, it was so peaceful up there. Just us and a shedload of ice!
Nicky, our guide, briefed us about safety on the ice and then we were off. The ice was in great condition and we were told we wouldn't need the iceaxe or the ice talonz. I was quite looking forward to wielding the axe about!
We hiked for 3 hours up, down and across the ice. In and out of crevasses and over ridges. There were 2 avalanches on the other side of the valley while we were up there, which scared the crap out of us.
Nicky just shrugged and said they're happening all day long on that side of the valley, but never cause any damage down the valley. Nicky was great and made sure we were safe 100% of the way. Her confidence to seek out paths in the bare ice was awe inspiring and she could certainly throw her axe about.
The whole experience was fantastic and Joo says it's the best hangover cure ever!
Enjoy the pictures :)
Our cabin in Hokitika
The 'menagerie' next to our cabin.
Mmmmm, Possum Stew!
Bottom of the Franz Josef Glacier
Joo at the bottom of the glacier.
Lee on a very curvy rock.
Peace and Quiet
Franz Josef Glacier from the helicopter.
The 'Espresso' group paving our way forward.
The helicopter flying back to the base.
Joo looking a bit windswept... or is that hungover?