The plan for the day was to visit the two glaciers on the west coast of South Island, Franz Josef glacier and Fox glacier. We started off after breakfast at our hotel and headed to Fox glacier first. Fox glacier is around 30 minutes south of Franz Josef town. After parking out car in the lot, we were already surrounded by misty mountains!
We could not see the glacier from the parking lot, and had to take a 1 hour hike up a hill to get a glimpse. The hike was a steep climb, and strenuous to say the least. Though, the views around more than made up for it!
We finally made it up the hill, and caught our first glimpse of Fox Glacier! Blue and white ice and snow, covered in ashy dirt, surrounded by green mountains.
|Close up of the glacier
After visiting Fox glacier, we came back to the town of Franz Josef for lunch. Post lunch, we had planned to visit Franz Josef glacier. We found out that the hike to Franz Josef glacier was longer, and we were pretty tired from the hike earlier that day. So, we visited Franz Josef glacier using a different mode of transport…a helicopter. We went to an operator in downtown Franz Josef, who offered helicopter rides to both glaciers, leaving every half an hour. Since we were only a party of two, we were offered one of the afternoon slots.
|Waiting to board the helicopter
As the helicopter lifted off, we started getting a view of Franz Josef glacier. The helicopter started at the base of the glacier, and steadily climbed up. We were greeted by a muddy blue ice first, followed by bright blue, and finally white snow all around!
|Flying over the glacier
After a 15 minute ride up the glacier, the helicopter stopped on top (on what I hoped was sturdy ground!), and let us out to experience the glacier. White all around! The sun was reflecting off of all the white snow, and was almost blinding. All the reflection also warmed up the air, and it was actually pleasant up there.
|On top of the glacier
Some photo ops later, it was time to get back into the helicopter and fly back. While it was a short and expensive ride (~$150 per person), it was definitely worth it, and a unique way to experience the landscape.
After the glacier experience, we visited the kiwi encounter. It was an expensive affair to watch a pair of kiwis in near darkness, and not totally worth it. We took a break for dinner, and ended the day with a short and easy hike to Peter’s pool. This was a level walk through the temperate rainforest surrounding Franz Josef glacier, and ended in a pool that reflects the majestic landscape and glacier.
Tomorrow, we head out of Franz Josef, and drive to Christchurch via Arther’s pass.