Franz Josef Glacier – Ice Explorers!

So then… here is our first entry in a couple months! I could say it’s just because we have been lazy (I guess this is true to an extent as there are definitely several occasions we could have written about), however its mostly down to the fact we have been immersed in reality and have had to succumb to ‘normal life’ with 9-5’s, early nights, and drunken weekends to make it through to the next week! We have done some really cool stuff to be fair, and tried to make the most of each weekend- classic saying of ‘living for the weekends’ would best describe our past few weeks.

For example we had a road trip to Hanmer Springs with Dan (our housemate) and a load of his friends. That was such a fun weekend…we rented a holiday house and went to the hot pools and played on the slides! The weekend obviously contained excessive amounts of alcohol and featured a ridiculous amount of drinking games. This did not end well for me. I wont go into detail about the outcome but after drinking half a bottle of gin plus being forced to down a curdling concoction of beer, wine, cider and vodka, its probably best to use your imagination. We then got roped into a 2 ½ hour uphill trek to a waterfall the next morning…Matt and I were sweating gin from every pore and moaned with every step we took. The only thing that kept me going was every time Dan tripped up haha. When we got up to the waterfall it was pretty cool to be fair! We posed for a group photo and then began the decent back down the mountain…2 ½ hour trek for a 5 minute photo op haha but it was good. It was even better when we got back to the car and embarked on a hunt to find a foot long meatball subway.

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We have also had Canterbury Cup Week. This was great, especially as I’d never been to the horse races before and have always wanted to go to Ascot! It was an excuse to get dolled up to the 9’s, drink in the sun all day and spend your money on horses (that end up coming last). We did have better luck than the week before when I was part of a sweep stake bet at work for the Mebourne cup races…my horse died. Full on dropped dead. So that sums up my luck with betting.

We left organising our outfits to the very last day (standard) so we really had to improvise. We took a trip to the $3 shop and nabbed a surprisingly lovely dress for me, although it was way too small and I ended up with a cut around my neck which looked like I’d tried to hang myself, and a Ralph Lauren white shirt and extremely baggy trousers for matt. Matt took it upon himself to become a seamstress after googling how to work a sewing machine, and went on to tailor his new trousers…and once he’d got the hang of it, he insisted on tailoring every pair of trousers he owned and then wanted to have a crack at my wardrobe.

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But anyway a long story short…we actually looked pretty dapper! The races were fab, and we met up with A & A (the ones we did the farm stay with) and they had an area with their car which was filled with every type of drink and food you could imagine! It was perfect! So we made the most of that, and really had such a lovely day!

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We went back to A & A’s afterwards too, as their neighbour was having a house party. Matt ended up falling asleep in her bathroom on the floor haha! So yeah that was so fun and I would definitely recommend the races 😀

Matt had his Christmas work do too which was very eventful and another excuse for us to get dressed up as it was black tie themed. All drinks and a three course meal were included, at the charity boxing event ‘Fight for Christchurch’. It was a really good night…very drama filled – but really good! It was good to meet all Matt’s work colleague’s and all their girlfriends too – we all got on really well and have been out with them a few times since, and actually have Matt’s second Christmas works do tomorrow!

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I also had my work Christmas do, Matt unfortunately wasn’t allowed to come so he was my chauffer. It was fancy dress and I went as Black Swan and somehow I ended up winning the best dressed, so I scored myself $60 of Vouchers for a restaurant down the road – took my Chauffer obviously!

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Anyway the main event I actually intended to write about is Franz Josef Glacier. This was the present that I bought Matt for his birthday back in August and we finally got around to doing it and OMG It was incredible!!

We left work at lunchtime on Friday and were in major holiday mode! We had a huge packed lunch for the 4 ½ hour journey, and some banging tunes blasting out and it was such a beautiful day! We were buzzing as we left Christchurch. The drive was so beautiful…like out of this world, postcard standard beautiful.

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To get there you go through Arthur’s pass, which is a mountain pass, nestled in the Southern Alps, which marks part of the boundary between the West Coast and Canterbury regions. The pass lies in a saddle between the valleys of the Otira River, a tributary of the Taramakau, in the west and the Bealey River. Some of the highest mountains were still snow capped, and the lakes lying between them were literally aqua blue and so still, it was so gorgeous. I was obsessed with the view and took about a million photos of the drive!  We were going to go on one of the walks here to see the waterfall called ‘devils punch bowl’ but we decided to power through so we could enjoy the evening in Franz Josef before it got too late.

We reached a town called Hokitika…there wasn’t much going on but we got out for a walk around, and thought we would go to the sanctuary and see a Kiwi…turns out it cost $22 so we walked in and straight back out again haha but the thought was there. The beach here was stunning, and had there not been a group of old men building a den out of sticks and drinking bourbon whiskeys, we may have lay on the beach for a while…decided against that though.

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As we were leaving this town we drove past two hitchhikers. We kind of hesitated for a second but saw their sign said ‘Franz Josef’ so we thought haha YOLO and turned around and they bundled into the car! It was a French girl and boy. I gave them the once over to establish if they would murder us, and once I had clarified that they wouldn’t, off we drove.

I thought hitchhikers would be more fun in honesty…they didn’t really say much and didn’t do anything funny. Matt said I kept talking AT them and they didn’t know what I was saying haha…I realised this after a while but I thought I’d rather talk at them than have an awkward silence…I think they immediately regretted getting in our car haha! But Matt wasn’t easing the situation by joining in my conversations with myself, he just found it too funny to watch me struggle.

After another hour of driving, we reached Fran Josef! It was such a cute little town, and we quickly found our hostel – it wasn’t hard as there were only probably about 5 amongst the two main roads.  We went to check in, after I had been all cocky for the past few days that I had got a huge discount on the room we had booked, it turned out I had only heard the price of one night and assumed it was two nights haha oops. Quite awkward when I tried to argue my point and they weren’t having any of it…so we begrudgingly downgraded to a twin bunk bed room! Happy birthday Matt – enjoy your luxury room!

Anyway after that we cracked open a bottle of wine Matt had bought (stole from work) for me.  Once we had both got the taste for alcohol…that was it, I knew exactly what the night ahead would consist of!

Rumour fleeing around the hostel was that the bar around the corner did $4 Pints of beers & ciders. Without hesitation we were already sat down with a drink in our hands!

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We had a lovely night in there, just chatting and sitting in the sun. At around 9pm the barman suggested another place we should go to, where the barstaff were going to go. So we got the bill, realised they had undercharged us by around $75, paid quicker than we had ever paid for anything in our lives, and we were gone! At the next bar we got roped into playing bowling on the Wii…so once Matt had beaten me at that and we had downed a few more bevvies, we heard another tip off that the club round the corner was always a good night.

We set off again, got lost and met some very happy Irish guys. We eventually all found the club and went through tequila shots, double gin, vodkas and wine.

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It felt like we just put the shot glass down on the bar and then we opened our eyes to our bunkbed, and our hostel room…sweet corn scattered across the carpet, the tub of tuna completely licked clean and the stench of chilli concarne (but no evidence of it whatsoever). So we had obviously enjoyed a royal feast of the left over warm, soggy packed lunch.

So yeah that was actually such a good night! We were a bit scared to be hiking up a mountain when we had this much alcohol flowing around our bodies…but hey ho we had driven 4 ½ hours to get here, it was Matts birthday and he WAS going to have a good time (otherwise he knew he would feel the wrath of me complaining at him).

The weather was not ideal. It was very grey and the clouds were extremely low. We heard they had cancelled all the ice hikes that morning due to bad weather so we were really worried they would cancel ours too. We went and tried to eat away our hangover by eating HUGE breakfasts and also to pass the time while we waited to hear the news. Turns out they were going ahead with ours! We met our tour guide (she ended up taking an immediate disliking to us…this seems to always happen when we do a trip – like the man in the blue mountains that kept telling us off) and went off to get booted up with all the equipment and clothing.

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We were still hanging but were powering through! When the sky cleared and the sun came out, we were really buzzing!  Matt did need to lie down on the floor for a while to summon up some energy…

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We made our way across the town (if it can be described as that, as it is tiny!) over to the helicopter pads. After safety briefings, we climbed aboard. Neither of us had been in a helicopter before, so that was a really cool experience! I was in the front and as always, was very snap happy. We flew up and into the glacier which was literally breath-taking. I didn’t really know what to expect, and what the glacier would actually look like, and it ended up being far more amazing that I could have imagines! The helicopter took us into the Pinnacles area of the glacier and this is where the guide navigated us through the ice.

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We learned how to walk on the ice with our crampons (The big spikes that go on the bottom of your shoe, to grip the ice) and then continued up, further into the glacier. The weather was perfect, no breeze whatsoever, and just really sunny and warm!

The guide led us through holes in the ice, and in between huge cracks in the ice. She had to pick axe new routes, as the glacier is constantly changing. The guide told us that the glacier was still advancing until 2008, but since then it has entered a very rapid phase of retreat. As is the case for most other New Zealand glaciers that are mainly found on the eastern side of the Southern Alps, the shrinking process is attributed to global warming.

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It really was such a beautiful and incredible experience that we would recommend to everyone!

The package we had was ‘ice explorer’ which also included the hot pools. Once we had landed back in the town, we headed over to the hot pools and relaxing in there for an hour. On the way back to the hostel, we were bitching about the guide and how annoyingly patronising she was…then she rode past on her bike haha typical!!

All in all, it was the perfect trip and well worth a visit!!

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2 responses to “Franz Josef Glacier – Ice Explorers!

  1. Pingback: Must-do Adventure Activities in New Zealand For All You Thrill Seekers | goodasgoldbro·

  2. Pingback: Backpacking around New Zealand on a Budget | goodasgoldbro·

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