Saturday, February 02, 2013
to the elements
Franz Josef Glacier was a bit of an adventure; I'll always think of it as the place our luck ran out. The West Coast was getting a lot of rain, which meant floods, which meant a section of the highway - specifically a bridge - was swept under and unpassable, which meant we didn't manage to reach Greymouth to return our car, and catch the train back to Christchurch as planned. Which meant turning around and driving 10 hours back the way we came. Thank goodness we had a car.
Power was down for part of the day, and phone lines were down for longer, be it land or mobile, not to mention the Internet. It was strange, being dependent on the radio - if you could get it - for news and communication.
Given the state of things, it was no surprise that our original plan to do a glacier trek at Fox Glacier didn't happen - a section of it was flooded.
So we wound up trekking Franz Josef Glacier instead - along with every stranded tourist willing to spend the money, it seemed, which made us a little worried. But happily, it turned out to be surprisingly quiet on the ice.
The tour began rather thrillingly with a heli ride: cue the "Man vs Wild" theme -
We landed on the ice, strapped on our crampons, and clad like a line of Paddington Bears, toddled off.
When choppers were not whirring over and making a racket, you can hear the sounds of the glacier - the sound of melting ice, water trickling, tinkling, plinking down, carving their way through ice and rock. The weather was changing the whole time we were on the ice - sunny and clear, then grey and cloudy, and everything in between.
A parting shot.
The plan had been to skydive over the glacier as well, but that didn't happen owing to the cloud cover and unpredictable wind. Weather always wins.