23 – 24th September 2012
With Uncle Les waving us off in the morning after the fun fuelled Poo Party, we were back on the road… Only for a short while as we arrived in Pukekura at its local bushman centre.
Paying the museum fee, we watched a hilarious video of deer trappers flying about in their helicopters. It was obviously a home video and the backing music had a lot to answer for. However, it was very educational how these famous deer trappers utilised their skills worldwide particularly in this changing climate.
Oh I forgot to tell you, our sunny spell came to a crashing end with the arrival of rain. Boooooo! Extreme boo from me as I wanted to climb Franz Josef Glacier tomorrow. It better clear up.
After petting their deer and also enjoying the delights of Possum Pie followed by a good giggle at the very Un PC approach the staff has, we were back on the road to appreciate the great scenery whizzing by as we climbed up the Southern Alps to reach Franz Josef Glacier Village and check into Rainforest Retreat Hostel. Possibly by far the best hostel I probably stayed at. But I stared up the sky in dismay. It was still raining. But to try and beat the odds, we checked in to do a heli-hike tonorrow where we helicopter up to the top of Franz Josef Glacier and then hike back down it. We couldn’t hike back up as its terminal end has been lost to the Global warming and it’s pretty dangerous to go up. Getting our safety brief together, I thought about the area.
So what can I tell you about Westland National Park where the Glacier is based in?
Rich in natural wonders of snow append mountainous peaks, forests as far as the eye can see, lagoons and varied coastlines, you can’t help but feel this is probably a great stop as any. Maybe the best. There is absolutely minimal human impact with only a few settlements and a narrow strip we call the highway. You can see why this area is World Heritage listed.
Abel Tasman was the first Pakeha (European) to see the Franz Josef Glacier in 1642 as he sailed the coast looking for somewhere to cool his beers (I highly doubt that!) but in 1862, this glacier got its name from an Austrian explorer who honoured it with his Emperor’s name…Franz Josef.
It’s not the only Glacier in the area…there are a least 60 including Franz Josef and Fox. Also, it’s the only place in the world where a glacier can be found in a rainforest.
So I was pretty excited to climb Franz Josef. Hell, it’s even on my bucket list! But the rain steadily got worse and worse…and I went to bed that evening hoping that we would be fine for the next day….
Sod’s law. It was even worse! Unfortunately, the view was so bad with the clouds being so low…the hike was cancelled. With a free day in fans Josef, there wasn’t a lot we could do except pig out in front of the warm fire and watch films which plenty of people did.
The rain was so continuous preying on my dark mood that at first chance of letting up about 1pm, I decided to check out the glacial hot pools. Very wise decision. With a group of us, we slipped in the outdoor pools and everyone gave a sigh of ‘ahhhhhh!’ as we relaxed in 40 degree water. Wrinkled after 2 hours, it was just what we needed after mithering about the rain for the morning.
Then I was stunned with an idea. If Franz Josef won’t come to us, then we can go to Franz Josef! There’s loads of tracks to walk up to the front so that’s what we did in the late afternoon. I didn’t care it was raining, I was soaked already!
Check out the mean pics I took. Impressive eh!
Back at the hostel, we treated ourselves to a good burger and watched the silliness of horizontal bungy. Making friends with the bar staff, I got offered far too many drinks and before I knew it, I stumbled into bed at 5am and knew I had to catch the bus at 7am…oh dear…would this be another Wellington? Who knows…
Tough break, Ed. The Franz Josef hike was one of the best things I’ve ever done in my life! Not to rub it in, or anything.
I never tried to hike, but I would love to try it. Nice post you have