In recent times I have learnt much about glaciers. I have many new words in my vocabulary, moraine, firn, blue ice, ablation zones, glacial flour…….. Then I came across this Maori explanation at Franz Joseph Glacier and decided I preferred that instead! The early Maori knew Franz Joseph as Ka Rominate o Hine Hukatere (Tears of the Avalanche Girl) Those guys were on to something.
There are twin glaciers on the west coast, Franz Joseph and Fox. There are a number of options on how to experience them. For no charge, it is possible to walk to close to the terminal of each. In the case of Franz Joseph the Glacier Valley walk gets within 500m and this is what you can see.
For safety reasons you are not allowed onto the ice without a guide and these options all involve a tour group! I do battle with that. There is a myriad of tour options, but none seemed worth it, for example one of the tours is 3.5hrs and the maximum time you would be on the ice is 10 minutes. What happens for the other 3hrs20mins? I asked. Well you need to travel there and it can be slow in a group as not everybody speaks English……. Any other options? I enquired…..Why yes there is….a helicopter!
You know sometimes you just have to blow the dough and it’s fair to say this experience is up there as a highlight of the entire trip so far. It almost blew my mind. The helicopter took us up across the Southern Alps with a fly by of Mount Cook before landing on Fox Glacier. WOW! There was also a heli hike option which allows you to spend more time on the glacier which looked amazing but it wasn’t running this day……. next time!! This was truly a highlight. You know the type of experience, when it’s over you go back to your day but you cannot because your mind is reliving the whole thing again and again. In fact I am not altogether sure what happened that day after that – all a blur!