Franz Joseph Glacier

Trip Start Apr 06, 2007
Trip End Jul 23, 2007

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Flag of New Zealand  ,
Sunday, April 22, 2007

Franz Joseph Glacier
Jose:  So after waking up in the middle of nowhere (I took a couple pics of nowhere, to show you guys) we decided to head towards Franz Joseph Glacier. It didn't take us long since we had made most of the trek last night and we arrived in a tiny town named after the glacier. We stopped at the information booth to get directions and figure out the trails we could do but to our surprise we were informed that no one was allowed on the glacier without a guide. So she showed us the two tour guide companies and their activities and we decided to head that way to figure out what we wanted to do. They had Ice Climbing as one of the activities but unfortunately you had to be there at 7:45am to go on that excursion and it was presently 8:30am, Andrea also was not feeling it, she strictly told me she would not do it but I think with enough time I could have convinced her. So we decided to do a half day trek up the glacier, when we went to sign up we were told that there was only one spot and that was it...and they weren't budging. So I asked when the next half day trek was and it was not until 12:30 pm ...then she remarked that the full day was leaving now and it would get back at the same time as the half day at 12:30pm so I said we'd take it. Andrea was also not feeling the full day trek because it was 8 to 9 hours long and the half day was only 4 to 5 hours long. After paying for the tickets the lady remarked..."You aren't going in jeans are you?" I said maybe why she said "you can't go up in jeans, at least it is not recommended, and please hurry your group is leaving now, Do you have lunch?" With a blank stare at Andrea we hurried to the campervan to fix us a lunch and change out of jeans. That is when Andrea had a small meltdown, there was a bit of complaining but she got over it in the end. Her main problem was that she didn't bring anything but jeans and so I gave her a pair of my black pants with straps and she put that over her jeans, later they gave us trousers(ski pants) as well and she put those on top of both. So with Ski pants and jacket, gloves and beany, and who could forget the boots and Talons (clever name for Ice shoes that attach to your shoes), we were off. We packed into a bus with about 40 other kids about our age, I thought they were all part of a group at first but it turns out they are all taking the local tour bus around New Zealand...If you ever get down here definitely go with the campervan, first of all it is cheaper and it is much more comfortable...So our tour guide led us on our 1 hour hike to the Glacier and then we put on our clever snow shoes. Ohhh, I almost forgot, on the way to the Glacier they have a roped off part that basically says Danger!!! No one is allowed pass this point, when we got to it our tour guide lowered the rope and we continued to the dismay of other tourist watching was pretty funny they acted like we were definitely going to die. Also on our way to the glacier our tour guide explained how the glacier is constantly moving and how at the bottom it is moving about 10cm a day forward (kind of contrary to logical thinking because if the glacier is melting it should move backwards not forwards) and how at the top part it was moving about 5 to 6 feet a day, so we needed to be careful and pay attention. With that warning we began our accent, it was really cool, I took lots of pictures of everything, at one point we got to a part that was so thin that you couldn't even put one foot in front of the other and so you had to inch forward each foot, I got stuck there by the way but Andrea who was behind me gave me a good shove and I was loose. The weird thing is that on a glacier the most difficult spaces to get through are the ones were the surface is smooth and slippery; you would think you would move easier there but that's not the way it works. At the beginning of the glacier they have steps carved out but about an hour into it, which is where the half day stops trekking is were the foot holes basically end. From that point on we were on our own and our guide dug as many steps as he could for us...not many though...highlights from the climb were:
Losing my water bottle, yes Andrea hooked up my water bottle after having a drink and about 10 min later we figured out it was missing and this was about an hour into the actual climbing of which we had about 4-5 hours left. Luckily I had extra water in my pack just in case my water bottle was not enough so we were fine but my water bottle I found out should appear at the bottom of the glacier in about 20 years, yes 20 years. So I think I will just have to buy a new one. Other highlights was going through a small cave (we got pictures) and sliding down a natural water slide.,..or should I say Ice slide. And we also got to see a Kea (Alpine parrot native to this region) up-close and personal. I got several was maybe 2 or 3 feet away looking for food from us. The landscape up in the glacier was incredible, we got to see several pieces of blue ice (hardest Ice possible, good for Ice climbing), and on our way down the mountain we got to a cave that was optional because tourists had gotten stuck a couple times, so two Irishmen were in front of me and they decided they weren't going in and so I of coarse was up to the challenge...I entered the cave and it got really tricky because it went down at an angle but it was super slippery like a slide only with no way out, I had a rope and went as far as the rope but decided that was enough seeing how the space was getting tighter and tighter. Our guide told us it had a small whole big enough for a baby but that was about it. In after me went only one person, this Chinese guy we called "Kim." He didn't speak a lick of English so we don't think he understood the instructions, he was with a mate that spoke a little bit of English but not much. Kim didn't come out after a couple of minutes and so his buddy kept yelling into the cave in Chinese, but Kim would not respond, then we finally responded that he was stuck, so the tour guide went in after him a min or two later and then the funniest thing happened, Kim showed up behind us, turns out he got out through the small crack. We were all floored, even the tour guide was amazed, turns out Kim is the first tourist to ever escape that cave. Him and I were the only ones brave enough to even try in our group so that tells you something. After that we headed down the mountain and on our way my right snow shoe broke, apparently it is not as uncommon as it probably should be and luck has it that mine decided to quit. So the tour guide told me to stay behind him and continue on. Well it was great going up and done the mountain with these snow shoes but WOW it was hella slippery with out it. My best description of rest of the trip down was ...I was on a surf board and my left leg acted as the stop. I nearly fell several times but really I was flying down the mountain at an alarming rate because I couldn't stop myself. If there were about 10 steps in a row I would be alright at one and two but three became 4 through 10. It was fun though and I enjoyed the ride. Once we got the bottom we got a recommendation on a restaurant and headed that way to have a hot dinner and then we decided to camp here for the night because we are exhausted...and I mean EXHAUSTED!!!! 9 Hours on a Glacier can do that to you. We left at 9:15am and got back at 6:30pm. But after a good shower we are about to head off to the local pub to get a few drinks with our tour guide and I guess I'll have to let you know how the night turns be continued.

Andrea: Just to add my two cents into Jose's long rant about the Glacier....It was like climbing a giant sno-cone! A once in a lifetime experience - meaning now that i've done it, i'll never do it again, thank you very much!!  
Well last night was a blast, we ended up going to a bar in the motorhome park we stayed at last night, yes it had a bar and a restaurant, along with a spa, motel, and tons of people our age using the bus system to get around. Apparently, there are certain places they can stay such as this place where they get discounts on dorm rooms (rooms with at least 3 other people of the same sex). So we played pool late into the night and got to know several of them. Most were from England and I couldn't understand a lick of what they were trying to tell me. I also learned the hard way that in their version of eight ball if you foul you get two consecutive shots. After several rounds of Tui (the local brew) we called it a night. So until next time...We love you all!!!
Jose and Andrea
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marwilt on

what beautiful country! Probably a little quiet after Buenos Aires. I'm so excited that you have turned into campers--glass bottles and barreling down the road do not mix (as you now know) Keep those pictures coming, especially where you are wearing matching outfits. I've got a great collage going. love you, mom

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