Franz Josef Glacier

Trip Start Mar 12, 2012
Trip End Jul 10, 2012

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Saturday, April 14, 2012

The next day we headed down to Franz Josef, a stop I had been really looking forward to. I was really keen to hike out on the glacier, as was everyone else, but as we made our way there, we got the news that all hikes starting from the bottom of the glacier had been stopped due to safety issues. The bottom of the glacier is melting, and a huge hole has opened up there, and it's no longer safe to walk across. We were all really disappointed, as everyone had been planning to do this. However, there was still one way to get onto the glacier - by helicopter. These were the only trips still allowed to run, as the helicopter drops you off half -way up the glacier, where it's safe to walk. We all decided that getting onto to the glacier was something we had to do, so decided to book the 'heli-hike' for the next day. That meant the evening to relax and get some R&R before the hike the next day. But we didn't really do relaxation, so the Tui was cracked open (Tui is our favourite NZ beer) and we had a good evening altogether. 

 The next morning, I forget to set my alarm, and woke up at 7.55am. We were supposed to be at the helicopter centre at 8am, so I went into a blind panic, and grabbed whatever stuff I could find and ran there! Managed to get there by 8.10am with everything I needed (quite an achievement I thought!). Luckily they hadn't even gotten in their gear yet, so I was fine for time. Once I had checked in, we had to put on our glacier outfits. So we had waterproof trousers, jackets, walking boots, hats, gloves, and crampons. And also these little bum bags to keep our stuff in, as you're not allowed bags on the helicopter. Then we were taught how to put our crampons on and off as we waited for the helicopter to arrive. It was so exciting, watching the helicopters land and take off. I wasn't really nervous about getting in it, I was just incredibly excited! Finally, we were called up to get in our helicopter. The noise and wind isn't as bad as I expected it to be. But we climbed in, put our seatbelts on, and then had to put our headphones on so we could hear the pilot talking to us. Then it took off, and flew over and onto the glacier. We got a great view of the entire glacier, it looked amazing from above. Then we landed on a small spot about halfway up, and I took my first slippery steps on Franz Josef Glacier. 

 Once everyone had arrived in their helicopters, we put on our crampons, and set off on our 3 hour hike with our guide. It's hard to describe how incredible it was hiking over the glacier. It was so strange, walking over this plateau of ice, with huge mountains on either side. Of course, I couldn't stare around too much, as I had to look where I was going, so I didn't step into a crevasse! We did actually walk through a crevasse at one point. Well, I say walk, it was more like squeeze and shuffle through. There was no room to lift our feet, so we had to shuffle through. It was so tight at one point, that I almost got stuck. Not a good feeling I can tell you! I did freak out a tiny bit! But our guide had a pick axe, so I'm sure she could've cut me free! 

We hiked our way up the glacier, through ice caves, looking at the weird shapes the ice makes. It was so awesome. Then we gradually made our way back down again, although we all wanted to stay longer! Someone even said they wanted to live up there!  We eventually got back to the helicopter landing spot. The first half of our group got in their helicopter and went off back to the village. Then our helicopter arrived, and we all climbed in expecting to fly out sedately over the glacier, the same way we had come in. But the helicopter took off, and instead of flying down over the glacier, it went up one of the mountains next to the glacier. We were flying up the mountainside, getting closer and closer to the top, and I was thinking, 'he's going to be really close to the top of that, when's he going to turn around and go over the glacier?' But the pilot kept going, and we literally skimmed the top of this mountain, before plunging down the other side in a nose dive! We were all screaming and laughing. Then he did spirals before finally straightening out and taking us back. It was craziest feeling, I had the biggest adrenalin rush! It was one of the scariest and most exciting things I've ever done! When we got out I couldn't stop jumping around, laughing, and talking about how amazing it was! It was definitely worth the extra money. One of my favourite things I've done here! The video will be coming soon!

We made our way back to the hostel for a sedate afternoon of sunbathing and sleeping! But I wasn't done yet. I had booked to do some horse-riding that afternoon. Finally! I had been desperate to get back in the saddle since leaving home, so I was really looking forward to it. It was just myself, the guide and another girl on the ride. We had three gorgeous horses to ride, with lovely weather. Luckily, the other girl was also experienced, which meant we could go at a faster pace! They also used Western saddles on their horses, which was an interesting change, and good experience for my work on a Colorado ranch next year! We had a brilliant ride, cantering along next to the mountains with the sun setting, going through rivers and rainforest. Just a fantastic end to the day. Got a bit saddle sore though, but sitting in the hot pools that evening helped a lot!
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