Sunday, June 15, 2008

Franz Josef Glacier

The next day is a huge driving day where we travel for 10 hours from the town of Te Anau to the Franz Josef. Again, we leave the kids sleeping and spare them the twisting turning road on the way back to Queenstown. We continue on and stop at a lake for breakfast. They are big on quiches and pies for breakfast and we also manage some pancakes with whipped cream!

We arrive in glorious sunshine at the town of Franz Josef at about 3:30 and decide to reward ourselves with a hotel for the night. A look around, though, yields nothing very good for a family of 6. We go to the Top Ten campground and ask the manager about a little room like we have seen at all of the campgrounds we have been at. He hums and hahs and then shows us to a 3 bedroom 1100 sf house!! It is absolutely fantastic and gives us the chance to have a bit of our own space. There is a door dividing the sleeping areas (3 bedrooms sleeping for 9) from the living room too, so if anyone is up early they can read in quiet and not disturb anyone else. There is a bathroom with a bathtub too!

We book a hike on the glacier for the next day through the manager of the Top Ten and go to the grocery store for fixin’s for dinner. The highlight of the night, though, has to be the near double skunk in cribbage by John of me where I escape by a single point!!

The next morning brings a bit of cloud, and a final mark of 82% in English for David!! We are off to climb the glacier but John stays behind as he is now going under the knife this summer for his knee.

The rest of us are picked up by the typical adventure guide that seems to exist in these adventure-based towns throughut NZ. Dreadlocks and all. We go don all of the heavy wool socks and rain coats and are given a fanny pack with crampons in it. They drive us as far as they can and then we start walking up a fire road. 200 meters up we branch off into the forest and are completely engulfed in forest. It is easy to see how the Israeli girl perished near Queenstown a month before and they didn’t find her body for the entire month even though it was 60 meters from the hut. Soon we are on the moraine and walking by a river. We have to climb up ladders and ropes and over all kinds of crazy terrain in order to get to the actual glacier.

This glacier along with the Fox a few miles away and one in Patagonia are the only glaciers in the world in the tropics. 2 km later and we pause at the base to don our crampons. The guide is worried that Paul won’t be able to keep up, but very quickly figures that Paul is the least of his worries. There are other guides carving steps for us and it takes a while to get used to walking in the crampons. The ice is amazing and every shade of blue. NZ is in a drought now and that will affect the glacier 5 years from now. There are little rivulets of water everywhere and the sound is thunderous. We spend about 2 hours on the glacier and then retrace our steps back through the moraine and the ladders to the bus. John has a fabulous chicken stirfry ready for us at home.

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