Franz Josef

Day 21: Franz Josef

Today was the day I was not sure how it would turn out. We tentatively had a glacier walk tour scheduled. But conditions had to be good for the helicopter pilots to fly and also they needed to asses Rachel to see if she could do the climb. We brought her into the glacier center and they determined she was ok to go up.
The next question was whether our tour would happen as the weather forecast was questionable. Our original tour was scheduled for 11 AM but they bumped it back an hour because of the weather. At noon they made the determination that it was safe to go.
Thus, we all proceeded to get our glacier gear. They provided everything you needed for the glacier. Everyone carried with them a bag that had our crampons in it and anything else you needed.
We left the glacier center and walked to the helicopter landing area. It is quite an operation. They have helicopters landing and taking off every five minutes. Because of my side, I had to ride in the front seat and the kids were in the back.
We took off. It was a beautiful flight. From the air the glacier did not look that big, but once you land you realize how gigantic the glacier really is. It is also amazing how small a space is needed to land a helicopter.
YouTube video of our flight
We got off the helicopter and they had us crouch down low as the helicopter does not turn off when you get off. Then once we were all off the helicopter took off. The helicopter generated a lot of wind. Thankfully a guide stood behind Rachel as the copter took off.

We proceeded up some stairs made out of ice. At the top we put our crampons on our shoes. We then waited for our guide assignment. We were very excited when we learned we would have our own guide. This was very generous of Franz Josef Glacier guides. Rachel would have slowed other groups down.

As we got started Rachel was really afraid to proceed. I think part of it was due to all the precautions they state at the beginning. She worries about worst case scenarios. Our guide realized she was struggling and he had her go to the front of our group. Once she was in front things seemed to go much better.

The guide took us through an amazing glacier. There are many trails on the glacier that the guides are constantly creating. They are doing this because the ice is constantly shifting. The Franz Josef Glacier is unlike other glaciers. Most glaciers are relatively flat. But due to the constant ice shifting it creates all sorts of crevices and fissures and huge blocks of ice. He said if we were ever to go on another glacier hike that we would be disappointed.

This glacier was just amazing. It was awesome and scary to be on such a huge glacier. At times we could hear the glacier breaking at the top and hear pieces of ice falling down but you wouldn't know where those pieces were going. They did not get us too close to the area where ice breaks off though. We saw many beautiful things including blue ice. We were able to drink directly from the glacier. There are not enough words to describe what we saw at the glacier.

We finally got back to town around 4:30 pm and then we needed to head up the coast to Greymouth for our lodging. One thing about New Zealand is their towns are tiny. You see a town on a map and it ends up being one house. We eventually stopped for dinner at Hotiki as I found a place with gluten free options. We ate dinner, then proceeded onwards to our lodging. We stayed at the Coleraine Motel and it was perfect. We had a two bedroom unit which could have theoretically slept 8 (2 kings and 2 twins). There was one bathroom and a large size living area. But the space was absolutely perfect for us after a long day of activities and traveling.

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Day 20: Queenstown to Franz Josef

Today we were very busy. At the last minute on Tuesday afternoon we decided to book a 4×4 Land Rover tour of Skipper Canyon with the Nomad tour company. The road into Skipper Canyon is one of the most dangerous roads in New Zealand. Rental cars are not allowed on it. The road is very narrow and cliffs are on the side of it. It was hand carved in the late 1800s.
Our tour began at 8:15 which meant we had to get everyone up early since we were checking out that day. We drove to the tour company and were happy to learn that we were the only ones on our tour. The drive down it was very cloudy but when we drove back the fog has mostly lifted. The views were outstanding and the family absolutely loved this adventure. We saw the old town and we even stopped to pan for gold.


Immediately after the tour we started our five hour drive to the Franz Josef Glacier. Originally I had based our day on leaving our rental and driving…I did not know we would be doing the four hour driving tour in the morning. So we started later than I had wanted. I had packed sandwiches and snacks for the car so we did not need to stop for lunch. One place we did have to stop at was Puzzling World in Wanaka. This was the one place Jonas wanted to go to. The interior exhibits were slightly hard for me to enjoy as I am prone to migraines and all of these exhibits had your eyes and mind doing strange things, which I try to avoid. The exterior of the attraction is a giant maze. From the outside the maze does not look for too complex. But I can assure you it is more complex than it looks. It took us 40 minutes to make it through the various objectives and make our way out.

We then continued our drive north. We eventually reached our hotel around 7. We checked in and then decided to eat dinner out. We found a place that Rachel and I could eat at. We enjoyed our meal, then came back to the room. I went to bed EARLY as I went to bed late the night before and had not been able to sleep because I was stressed about checking out on time and making it to our Skippers Canyon tour.
Today was probably our longest day of the trip. The scenery we passed was beautiful. Most of the time we did not have cellular service so it felt a little like the early 2000s. I was navigating with an actual map.

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