Havey’s Australia & New Zealand Adventure Part 20 – Franz Josef Glacier, South Island NZ

nickyhavey
Nicky Havey @nickyhaveyAugust 2019 · 9 min read


Now That's "Cool"

After the amazing road trip from Abel Tasman to Franz Josef in the previous blog, it was time to check out the pretty "cool" sites of this iconic glacier in the South Island of New Zealand. I can safely say it was one of the highlights of my travels this year and everyone I was with on the adventure tour would probably say the same. Let's check it out :)

Franz Josef Glacier


History

The Moari name for the glacier is Kā Roimata ō Hine Hukatere, which translates as "the frozen tears of Hine Hukatere" [Source]. The Moari legend describes the love Hine Hukatere had when climbing these mountains and she convinced her lover, Wawe, to climb with her. Even though Wawe wasn't as an experienced climber, he loved climbing with her. Tragically, Wawe was swallowed by an avalanche and met his maker, leaving Hine Hukatere broken-hearted with her many tears streaming down the mountain and freezing to form the glacier [Source].

Of course, when western civilisation made its way over to New Zealand, the name had to be given by the first explorers here. In this case, German explorer Julius von Haast named the glacier after the Emperor Franz Josef I of Austria in 1865 [Source], which is the name we all know it by today.


Franz Josef Glacier in the distance

State of Retreat

The glacier is quite a spectacle even when you look at it from the town of Franz Josef and it was advancing up until 2008 but since then it has started retreating and rapidly, following a big collapse of the terminal face in 2012 [Source]. Our tour guide said that it may not be around much longer and they think by 50 years time (2070) it will be mostly inaccessible so if you want to visit it, now is the time.

Heli Hike

Nowadays, the only way to get to the glacier is by helicopter, which is paired with a hike around the glacier, hence the phrase "Heli Hike". We went with a company called "Franz Josef Glacier Guides" for a price of $479 NZD. This may seem expensive and I was a bit hesitant but actually, you get a LOT out of it.

A short walk through the native forest where the glacier was originally gives you a real sense of just how far the glacier has retreated. Then you get a breathtaking helicopter ride to and from the glacier and around 3.5 hours on the ice which is even more spectacular. Once you have been on the hike, you get a chance to relax in the hot pools at no extra cost (otherwise it would be $30 NZD if you didn't do the heli hike). So you get quite a lot!


Making our way over to the Glacier


The view through the mountain valley is amazing


The Glacier comes in to view...


Made it! There isn't much room to land the helicopter on the glacier!

As you fly over, you'll notice just how shear the rock faces are of the mountains. Franz Josef is one of the steepest glaciers in the country, descending from a height of 3,000m above sea level to 240m over a distance of only 11km [Source]. When you get off the helicopter and take a moment to have a look around, you'll certainly feel insignificant in the awe of nature.


Looking down the mountain range after you've landed


That's a lot of ice!

On this tour, you do get all the gear you need from the company such as hiking boots, crampons (spike fitting for the hiking shoes on the ice), fleece, gloves and a beanie. It's strongly advised you bring sunglasses and wear a thermal under layer as well because...you know... ice! So, now that we're here on the glacier, the tour guide, armed with an ice axe, will show you around.


First up, we need to navigate these steps

As you can see from the picture above, there are many steep sections, lots of steps and lots of crevasses that you probably wouldn't want to fall in to! The advice from our instructor was simple, "If you think you will fall, you will probably fall! So, walk normally, hold on to the rope and you'll be fine!" I have to admit, I was a little nervy going down this first stair case...


Here we go then...


Now we need to climb up!

One thing that is striking about the ice is that it is SO blue, you really can't believe it. Why is that though? Is it because it's reflecting the sky? Well, that can't be true because as you can see from the pictures above, it was pretty cloudy and white. In fact, it's blue because the dense ice absorbs every colour of the visible spectrum except blue, which gets reflected. So there you go!


Surrounded by great walls of blue ice


Be careful not to fall down these crevasses!


Although it feels like you're heading in to one at times!


Phew! Daylight!

Looking back at these pictures, I'd say that if you're claustrophobic, you may be a little intimidated by the steep, narrow paths that are carved out as the ice does tower above you but you are only in there for a minute as you keep walking through. We had some people that were claustrophobic on the heli hike but they all came through unscathed.


The surface of the glacier further up is a lot more ragged

As we walked along the top for a little bit, we could see how the shape of the ice changed quite dramatically from slightly more smooth and regular to the bluer jagged shape towards the top. This is due to the fast moving ice up there which is constantly changing and creating these features at around 4-5 metres per day compared to around 50cm per day where we were walking. So the landscape really does change every day... BANG!

What was that?! My heart started racing as I feared the worst... is that the beginning of an avalanche and our impending doom? A deep rumbling and a really loud crash echoing around in the distance struck fear in to everyone but thankfully, we were safe here. This was in fact a giant ice block falling away due to the large movements that occur and they happen often so don't be alarmed if you hear a loud bang!


Heading back down through these ever moving ice blocks...


...and back out again before...


...making it to as far as we can go!

Obviously, you can't go up in to the jagged ice region because it really is too dangerous due to the fast movements and the ice below you can give way at any moment. So this is the peak of the glacier hike! Now we have the task of having to get back to the helicopter - or, if you like your Arnie movies, "BACK TO THE CHOPPER!!"


Be careful not to fall down these cracks!


Easier said than done though with amazing views like this!


Just one more deep crevasse to go down...


It's a tight squeeze...


Can we get out now?


Phew, we made it out! Time to warm up in the hot pools!

Franz Josef Town


Accommodation

We stayed at the Rainforest Retreat for a couple of nights. It's effectively a lodge hostel but me and Jan had a bit of trouble with our rooms as the first one had a horrible sewage smell in it, the second one had a bit of blood on one of the sheets but the third room was finally fit for purpose. However, the group also had troubles in that other residents stole our food and breakfast so I'd probably recommend staying in another hostel or accommodation in Franz Josef if you're visiting. Good points are that it was right next door to our Heli Hike start point, has it's own hot tub and the staff did get us a good room in the end.

Food

Another good point about the accommodation was that it had an all you can eat pizza party restaurant and bar which you paid $20NZD for and that included a drink whilst sitting outside next to the roaring fire.

If you like Asian food, a good option is a lovely Thai restaurant called the "Snake Bite", which is where we went after our Heli Hike. There is a wide selection of Asian dishes to choose from here and it costs around $20-25 NZD for mains.

Really though, there aren't many places to choose from as Franz Josef is a tiny alpine resort with a mini supermarket in the form of 4square!

So there you have it folks, Franz Josef Glacier, one of the many wonders of New Zealand and I'd highly recommend you go due to it being in a rapid retreat. The town of Franz Josef is a small resort town so would advise two nights there if you're just looking to do the main attraction of the Heli Hike. Other things to do include the Wildlife Reserve (but those in the group that went on it weren't too impressed and called it a tourist trap), walking along some of the trails and skydiving if you're feeling super adventurous!

I hope you enjoyed this navigation through the glacier and see you again soon! Take it easy

Nicky

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Original article: https://nickyhavey.co.uk/2019/08/haveys-australia-new-zealand-adventure-part-20-franz-josef-glacier-south-island-nz/



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Wow! Not for the faint hearted! I'm glad you made it back safely to the chopper. That was quite and adventure you took us on!


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Haha thanks for joining the adventure with me although if you saw the white water rafting blog I did with a 7m drop down some grade 5 rapids, this was child's play compared to it! New Zealand is an amazing country to visit!


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wow what an epic adventure you have had, what an amazing hike I am a little claustrophobic so not sure if I could do it, but I think I would try xx


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Hey @trucklife-family thank you for joining me on this! I would love nothing more to be back out and floating around the ice or dancing around the mountains of New Zealand again. Maybe the job/company I'm at now can pave a way back there but for now, I am staying put in the UK.

I'd definitely give it a try if I were you, the others that were claustrophobic on the hike said they were ok with it and they just focused on the person in front of them and kept moving which helped :)


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Quite a story about Hine Hukatere and Wawe. I always try to imagine what a person who originates one of these tales was like, and why they made up the story. Some visitors say they hear her voice, and they say it's bone-chilling.

I dislike the cold very, very much. I'm uncomfortable when it's 60 degrees Fahrenheit, so a glacier won't be one of my travel destinations, lol. Awesome pics though! Really weird about how the blue is reflected because it's the only color the ice can't absorb.


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I think it would be very difficult to imagine who or what the first tribes people were like as the more you discover about the Maori, and indeed the Aborigines, the more spiritual it gets and that's where your own imagination takes you places. The stories and legends are quite different to how we have been brought up in the Western world.

You must live in a desert or something haha! The cool temperature was only really noticeable when you were at the top and standing still with the wind blowing in your face. If you have a thermal underlayer, it was fine. Mind I'm from the UK so the climate is pretty similar vs NZ.


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I find the proliferation of mythological characters in ancient times to be one of the strangest of all human oddities throughout human existence. It's as though one individual in each primitive culture worldwide felt obligated somehow, to devise an enforceable and forcibly "accepted" rationale that attributed forces of nature to human-like gods, goddesses and a variety of other characters.

Each character has a unique story of course, and is followed up with mandatory sacrifices and offerings for good measure. (Goodies for the myth's originator and his minions).

The creation of mythological entities happened similarly all over the primitive world. Quite odd when they had no means to communicate with other cultures doing basically the same thing.

Myth creation just seems to me, to be something we humans were, and are, compelled to do. When we drill down to the core, it had to begin with a story that just one of the humans concocted.

There were, and are, severe penalties for not accepting myths. How else can one maintain control?

What was the motivation? The control of other humans? Why do some humans crave power to force others to do their bidding? It certainly seems the act of controlling people is likely the most prominent legacy of ancient mythology; arguably the fore-bearer of our religious institutions today.

This hasn't gone unnoticed by all historians. Beginning at some point, it's clear that at least one human has always held the power over others - power that was charged in the first place by a myth that one single human started.


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I think that's human nature isn't it though? Lead or be lead? In this world you have people with a natural incline to lead people and those who like to follow. However, there are always bad eggs and if the leader you choose to follow is a bad egg then the smell would get pretty rotten (i.e. using what you described as "divide and conquer" or using fear to control the people you want to control). @wales wrote a fine blog recently about evil in this world that you might want to check out here if you haven't already.

Humans love stories though, it's how we learn and get educated, feel like we're connected to one another of similar interests so it's no wonder that stories, whatever they're telling, have been around for as long as we've been able to communicate.

Please note, I'm not a historian but I've read a few books on social science and persuasion tactics which are pretty fascinating indeed but they all come around to this same idea of "selling a story".

That's my theory anyway of my observations of this world so far. I could be wrong of course :)


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Love the story of how the glacier came to be. Such a dramatic name and should have stayed that way. I'm happy you shared that with us.

And the views and the ice is just as dramatic! Beautiful in every way. With the moving ice, I would be scared to be in a crevice when it starts to move 😬

My imagination always brings me to the worst case scenario. Thank you horror movies!

That sucks that others have eaten all your food! I would have been furious! The place couldn't help out with that bit at all? That's more money having to come out of your pockets because of a few 🤬.

Glad you got cleaner rooms though, that was kind of gross...kind of 😝 🤢

All in all I'm glad you had an amazing time and such a great experience. Living life on the edge in a wild adventure!


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This looks like an awesome adventure. Thanks for sharing.


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Thanks for checking it out man! Yes one of my favourite moments on the trip (well, the whole lot was a favourite moment haha)!


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I think "cool" is quite the understatement, haha! What an experience! I'd say that was definitely worth the price, especially since it may not be around for much longer. Your pics are fantastic, but I can only imagine how it was to actually be there with all of your senses engaged. I get a bit claustrophobic in tight spaces, but I think I would still totally power through if I had a chance to check out something like this!


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Haha, I'm British, we understate everything here :D It was a pretty amazing experience and I had no regrets on the price after I did it, pure magic! The pictures are nice triggers for memories I had there but you're right, they don't do it any justice really, not even the videos I took either...

You'd be absolutely fine young bean, you'd power on through those crevasses like they were wider than the Grand Canyon!


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Hey hey @travelfeed legends and @for91days! Thanks so much for the support on this one and awesome to see the project moving forward! Sorry I haven't been around too much in the discord server, I know you guys are kicking some serious butt though 🙂

I saw the awesome contest from invisus and put in a previous travelfeed post I made on my NZ roadtrip. I have to say, I am starting to miss traveling but I hope to be back again soon, time to live like a "normal" citizen for now until steem picks up again!


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We're kicking butt until it starts hurting!!! Good luck for the contest!


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How AMAZING to have had those steps carved out for you. Amazing experience Nicky. Wonderful to be there with you ~ From the comfort of my own home. I would love to go to NZ one day. ♥︎♥︎⚖️♥︎♥︎


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Haha thanks @allyinspirit! Yes the guide was axing away at the ice as the glacier changes shape everyday so they are always busy. Quite amazing really!

You absolutely must go to New Zealand, I'm so glad I decided to go out there. Amazing place for a road trip and hiking. For a small island, it offers a lot. I fell a bit in love with the place 😊


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Reading the original story that name should have remained, (keeping authentic with the region).

Thanks for getting us there via your camera Nicky a lovely memory to cherish, very sad ice is receding at the rate it is.


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I agree, there's something very spiritual that adds to the magic of the tribal names given to these places. There's more to come of course with future blogs as I catch up with the blogs.

It's sad to hear about the retreat of the glacier. That's why I thought I would just go for it and not worry about the money because I may not see it like this ever again and am grateful to be able to share them with you.

Thanks for stopping by


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So freaking awesomeness!!!

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It's the Queen of emojis! Haha thanks a lot @thereikiforest for the awesome support my friend!


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