Franz Josef: Let’s Get Icy!

Hello there! 🙂 I am back with my second post on my NZ road trip and Franz Josef (will be referred as FJ further on) will be my second tale!

Back to the previous month when we were still deliberating to book a tour to the glacier. Oh yeah, we were so surprised on how pricey a tour to a glacier could be! After that after-hours discussion in the office, then we decided to take the tour from Franz Josef Glacier Guides, namely the Ice Explorer which cost us 325 NZD per pax. Yup, sounds cool (and costly) enough right? and IT WAS REALLY COOL in fact. 😀

FJ is our second stop after a day resting in Greymouth. We visited Punakaiki that morning before headed to FJ. Well, I kinda working on this journal back and forth, so the story on Greymouth and Punakaiki will be on the later post! 😉 We were not very lucky on the road, since we were (again) driving in the rain. I mean, who love driving in the rain? Well, I didn’t. The great part was, to get to FJ from Punakaiki, we got to drive all the way South on the West Coast scenic road. My goodness, the view were just unbelievable!

We passed the city of Ross where they said we could find NZ biggest gold nugget. We didn’t pay a visit to the nugget as we were hoping to get to FJ before dark. And we did arrive just before dark to FJ. Oh well, first impression was: this is a tiny town! You really don’t need a car to get around this little township. We easily spot our home for the next two night: YHA Franz Josef.

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Ross, the home to NZ largest gold nugget

We got a private room for three there. After a nice shower, for sure we were starved! The nice (and actually pretty cute, lol forget it) reception Casey gave us some recommendation on where to eat out that night. We decided to eat at The Landing Restaurant and Bar. One thing I remember the most about this place was that they had a SUPER LARGE portion, even for me who loves to eat. Cleverly, that night we ordered an appetizer of mussels and two entree; mountain of nachos (literally mountain of it!) and pizza. Result: the pizza remained untouched and we had it home. The second time we were there, oh yeah we learnt a lot and finally applying strategy in ordering food. Only two entree for three of us, and a dessert, oh well, there’s always space for dessert! And this one was really good, too. KIWIANA!

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Kiwiana at the Landing Restaurant and Bar

Okay, now to the icy adventure! 😉 The next morning we strolled down this small town and and find the office of our guided tour. The sun shone so bright that day, a good sign indeed! Because today, we really, really need a good weather since we will be flying on a helicopter. And believe it or not, this will be my first ever heli ride!

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A sight of Franz Josef Town, surrounded by mountain and rain forest
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The Franz Josef Glacier Guides, our tour provider

We checked in to the booth. It was good to know that this tour is ran by a professional company. Well, at least their administration and registration thingy proved so. We waited for thirty minutes or so when finally our guide called out our name. Our guide was this nice girl Kathia. We would be hiking in a group of 10, the three of us from Indonesia, another three from Taiwan, two from Hong Kong and two ladies from Germany. We picked our outfit, strapped our boots and re-packed for we will only be allowed to carry a small sling bag. Tips: don’t forget to pack water and candies as these will give you an instant boost of energy 🙂

So after a quick briefing, we were ready to hike up the glacier! We had a little walk to the heli-port and waited for the heli to take us up to the glacier. and there was my first ever heli ride!

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My first heli ride, that was the glacier ahead!

The heli landed on the typically flat area of the glacier. It was not that cold actually! We put on our crampons shortly after we landed. And Kathia taught us on how to walk on ice with crampons! I was so excited! Then after we were sure that we were okay with our gear we began to hike up. The hike was conducted in a tailored pace. Oh hell, if a fatty like me could do it, you could do it, too! The guide always checked before hand if the path was still okay or not. Though it was a definitely new environment for me, I felt really safe and had the confidence to move on.

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Gorgeous View!
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Kathia taught us on how to walk on ice, be aggressive!

There are though steep hikes here and there. But again I believed we were in good hands, so I just tried my best. I almost cried tough, in one narrow gap whilst descending. Darn, it was very narrow and very steep. I couldn’t move at that time! And guess what, all I needed just to put myself together and get composed. Voila, I made it through that steep gap. Yeah, the descend for me was way more challenging than the way up.

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The typical gap during the hike
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Magnificent view at the topmost of the glacier that we hiked to… all paid off!
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The Ice Tunnel, made by the guides and they called it “The Holy Grail”

I intentionally made myself slide to descend. That was far more easier. As what Kathia said, “You made Alice in the Wonderland happened here! LOL” But the hike was really worth it. That was a whole new experience for me. We spent almost three hours on the ice and that was amazing! Bottom line is do not be afraid to get icy in Franz Josef, anyhow that seemed to be the best way to enjoy this town 🙂 Oh geez, and after the hike, I could really use the complimentary hot-pool ticket. It was so rewarding!

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All sweaty and tired, there I was!

Until next post! 😉

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