- Lake Mahinapua – Franz Josef
A short, but windy, bus ride brought us in to the heart of the tourist town of Franz Josef, known for its rainforest and two (of three in the world) temperate glaciers: the Fox Glacier and the Franz Josef Glacier. We were super excited about the potential for a helicopter ride and explore on the ice, despite the high prices.
On arrival, we upgraded our new family (Puck now in) to the more superior room at the Rainforest Retreat, giving us a hairdryer, tea and coffee and a double bed. You would think that was standard but not for us backpackers! The little things in life :’). Franz Josef is a small town with two main roads – 1 for the accommodation and 1 for the shops and information centres. Our afternoon exploring was therefore short, but extended by decent coffee and fast, free wifi at a local cafe.
When we returned, we were once again reunited with our favourites. Greg had been up on the ice that morning and showed us some beautiful helicopter pictures. Emma then joined us in the hostel sauna and hot tub for some girl time, before we all gathered in the bar that evening, catching up also with Emily, Simon, Nick and Dan. Although the weather appeared to be coming in, we tried to remain positive that our own tour would go ahead in the morning. Therefore, after all snuggling in our double bed along with Greg, Emily and Emma, we called it an early night with a film.
Monique and I had an 8.15am departure time but found out at 8am that all tours that day were being cancelled. The clouds had engulfed the town and the rain showed no signs of heeding up. This made us pretty upset given it was one of the must-dos I had for this part of my travels. Nick joined us for breakfast and coffee at another local cafe instead and we made a plan for the day ahead: take the shuttle to the glacier valley walk and hike to see the glacier from the bottom, despite the rain.
At 10.45, we hopped on the bus to do just that. It was pouring and cold (about 6C) but we were determined to see some ice! The walk took about 45 minutes and gave some pretty cool views, but again covered with cloud.
Still, my inner geographer did get to experience the erosion, retreat and run-off from a glacier, as well as the stunning valley carved from previous accumulation and ablation periods when the tongue stretched further towards the town.
After returning to the hostel, drying off and fuelling up with food, we hopped in the sauna and hot tub back at our accommodation to warm up and then got ready for “pizza fest” – an all you can eat pizza buffet put on by the hostel – and happy hour. We were sat by some rather large girls who were not willing to share pizza with us, meaning we equally didn’t share back and ate to our hearts content! The pizza was lush and the alcohol flowing and after several rounds of pool, cards and other conversations in the “Monsoon Bar”, we finally made it back to our room.
I say room rather than bed because Puck then became the most hyper little sister in the world. For another hour, we were hysterically crying, shouting, laughing and joking about anything and everything, with the evening proving to be one of my favourites yet. These are the times that you remember with the people you meet travelling that make the whole experience so special.
The next morning our wake-up call was at the ungodly time of 6.30am. Despite this, everyone was cheery and having a real laugh. Although we left Matt, Morgan and Susie in Franz Josef to do the glacier trip, it was nice to be back in the sunshine, reunited with some of the boys and on our way to Wanaka.
Now 22 days (3 weeks gone already!) in to ‘life from a bag’ and so far, I seem to have brought the UK weather to the other side of the world with me.