Glaciers and Rocks
After Nelson we headed to the tiny village of Franz Josef to check out the famous Franz Josef Glacier. Along with Fox Glacier, the Franz Josef Glacier is one of New Zealand’s top “must-dos”. Every guide book and every local will tell you that you absolutely have to go check out this bit of the country. We spent ten hours on the bus from Nelson to reach the glaciers but the ride was surprisingly fun. We were gifted with amazing scenery our entire journey down the west coast of the country and were even lucky enough to have had our lunch break be in Punakaiki where we had a chance to check out the famous Pancake rocks. They were absolutely spectacular and we wished we had more than half an hour to spend admiring them, but probably not a whole day so it was still a good thing that we decided to skip over spending a night in Punakaiki to head straight to the glaciers.
When we arrived at Franz Josef we were completely exhausted from the early morning start and the all- day bus ride (funny how sitting on your butt all day can make you so tired) so we pretty much ate supper and headed straight to bed. The next morning we awoke to pouring rain and completely obstructed views. We knew we were surrounded by mountains yet we couldn’t see a thing. By that point we had already decided against the very expensive guided glacier walks in lieu of an independent walk to the glacier face but when the rain started coming down even harder we wondered if we would even make the journey at all. It was a 5km walk to the start of the hike, then another hour and a half return hike to the glacier, followed by the 5km walk back to the township. In the end we decided to suck it up, put our rain gear on and make the trip. After all, why else were we in Franz Josef?
Within minutes we were completely soaked and feeling somewhat miserable although we tried to remain as positive as possible. We even tried hitch hiking the 5km to the start of the trail but this venture did not meet with any success. After fourty-five minutes we reached the beginning of the trail and knowing that the glacier was within our reach our spirits began to rise. A short trail walk led us to a beautiful valley surrounded by mountains and cascading waterfalls. At this point we caught our first glimpse of the Franz Josef Glacier which lay at the end of the valley. Even though it was still pouring rain, the beauty of the valley and the glacier were unmistakable.
Just as we reached the end of the valley and the foot of the glacier, our luck began to turn and the tiny break in the clouds we had thought we spotted earlier turned into a bright blue sky. The sunshine felt amazing as it dried us off and warmed us up, but the best part about it was that we were finally able to recognize the true magnificence of our surroundings (as usual, the pictures do not to it justice). It was such a great few moments in that valley with the sun shining down on us. We both felt amazing and truly thankful to be where we were and to be doing what we were doing. It really was one of those moments that makes you feel certain that you’re doing the right things for yourself in your life. I know this probably all sounds pretty cheesy to you guys, but I’m sure you’ve all experienced something similar in your own lives and can relate in some way.
As we began our walk back out of the valley the clouds began closing back in on us and the rain began once again. Luckily our long, wet walk back to the village was cut short when two German guys stopped to ask if we wanted a ride back to town (hell yeah!). We happily accepted and spent the rest of our time in Franz Josef relaxing at the hostel and watching The All Blacks beat France in the Rugby World Cup.