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Franz Josef to Greymouth
Our journey so far has brought us to many and incredible things that we have not seen before. We have seen the ridiculously breathtaking lakes, mountains and seas. What else is there we have yet to explore? Walking on glacier? Let’s do it!
We were dead worried prior to signing up the half day glacier walk package. We totally had no idea how difficult the walk would be. We played mind games with each other trying to convince that the walk would be a fun one, but deep inside, we know it will not be an easy walk.
Franz Josef Glacier Guides is just a mere 5 minutes walk from our hostel. After signing the indemnity form, we were ushered to a room to get our walking boots, crampons and jackets. Then, we waited for the bus which got us to the starting point of the walk.
The Franz Josef (Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere in Māori) is a 12 km long glacier located in Westland Tai Poutini National Park on the West Coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Together with the Fox Glacier 20 km to the south, it is unique in descending from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level, amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest.
Together with other adventurers in the same group, we started the walk with a cool lady guide.
With no sight of glacier yet, we trekked into the forest and emerged at the other end. From there, we could see the glacier but getting to the starting point of the glacier took us longer time. As we walked, the guide took the opportunity to explain the origin of the glacier, how it formed and how global warming plays an important role in shaping today’s glacier. I couldn’t agree more with her.
The starting point is cordoned off to public and only licensed guides are allowed and we must adhere to the guide. A brief explanation on the glacier – the huge chunks of ice change shapes every single day. There is constant movement underneath the ice, so according to the guide, collapsed ice happen almost daily due to unstable structure. There is no permanent route while on ice, so new route has to be carved out from time to time.
We walked past the starting point and slowly began the hike on the rocky terrain. Seriously, there are a lot of rocks and stones which were once washed down by the glacier. A short climb and we were up quite high and just right before the icy surface, we put on the crampons onto our boots. It helps us to walk on the ice safely.
I was truly excited when I first stepped on the ice. It is different from snow as the surface is hard as rock but melting at a very slow pace. Surprisingly, the surrounding wasn’t cold at all.
The guide also brought us to ice cave and boy, what a truly eye opener! Due to stability, we were not allowed to spend longer time in the cave and also to give chance to other people in the group to admire God’s creation.
Besides the ice cave, we were also given chance to climb the icy surface. I like it when the guide puts an effort to really explain the current condition of the glacier and how weather in West Coast brings the formation of the glacier.
We spent close to an hour on the icy surface before we made our way back. We took a lot small breaks in between and also trying to keep up our energy level by having loads of energy bars.
We ended the hike safely and had our lunch at the cafe nearby Franz Josef town.
We continued our itinerary by driving along West Coast towards Greymouth. Two hours and half later, we finally made it but not before stopping by New World to get some grocery for the day’s dinner.
The hostel we stayed probably the least attractive but it has homely feel and again, we spent most of the time in the kitchen and dining hall talking about the awesome day that we had.