Great Times at the Glaciers

Trip Start Sep 05, 2010
Trip End Aug 21, 2011

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, May 24, 2011

We managed to make a fairly early start this morning, leaving at 9.30. We knew we only had 22 miles to Fox Glacier, where we would take a detour and leave the bikes for an hour's walk to the 'terminal face’ (of the glacier!). The weather and gloomy mist closed in on us however and by the time we got to the turn-off after a tiring ride, we weren’t sure it would be worth the effort. When we reached the car-park before the walk it was raining and I was hungry and not enthusiastic, but cold chips from last night fortified us and we set off in the deep rocky valley.

It certainly was worth the effort. Signs along the path warned us to keep moving due to danger of rock fall and so the glacier came quickly into view. Its size and brilliant blue colour were pretty amazing, and having read to the signs we think we now understand how and why it moves up and down the valley.

Two kilometres further on, Fox Glacier Township had a great little café where we could warm up and also fuel up with lattes and toasted salami sandwiches before tackling the enormous hills ahead. As you’ll see from the photograph, the day’s gradient profile was punishing. It was only 15 miles from Fox to Franz-Josef Glacier Township, but it took 2hrs. Twice we slowly toiled all the way up to 200m above sea level only to whizz back down and repeat the climb.

The Rainforest Retreat in Franz-Josef welcomed us very kindly though, the reception lady clearly feeling sorry for two soaking cyclists and giving is a discount on camping and a free drink! She also warned us that the tent pitching area was tiny, but that probably no one else would join us as it was too cold. However, just after we emerged from a seriously good power shower, we saw two familiar faces – Anton and Lina! They had managed to get Lina’s bike fixed enough to hopefully get them to a bigger town further up the coast. They’d taken the bus over the huge hills we did today and yesterday and were very glad to have done so.

This time, the four of us had to share the kitchen and TV room with loads of backpackers, but we found a corner table and had a civilised dinner party for four before heading to the bar for a drink and discussion of the route ahead and possible future careers for the Swedes when they return from their travels. Lina was thinking of training to be a ‘baby releaser’ which we finally managed to translate as ‘midwife! Really good to catch up with them again.

Miles cycled:  42 with the hills between glaciers killing us
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