Chasing glaciers in Franz Josef

Ok its time people, time to leave Wanaka and the adventures of Queenstown behind and drive further North. In this post we drive to Franz Josef Glacier and town.

Driving away from Wanaka is just as beautiful as the town itself. We drove along many lakes stopping to throw some rocks at times, and stare into the vast mountain ranges behind.





We then reached the point where Lake Wanaka ends and meets Lake Hawea, where we saw stunning views and drove right along the cliff face on the lake. It seems to be a thing in New Zealand, to have a very narrow road right on the cliff face next to a lake, ocean or mountain valley. It is always spectacular views but it can also be a little nerve racking that there are no barriers in place. Just a small thing we noticed when comparing Australia to New Zealand.



As we continued driving, through the mountain ranges we stopped at a waterfall that was very busy but beautiful.



When getting back in our car we saw another car trying to squeeze their way into a spot near Bob and Leonne’s car, however in doing so he accidentally reversed into their car and damaged it. Alex was out of our car right away as Bob and Leonne were still looking at the waterfall. He stopped the couple who at first pretended to not know what had occurred or that they had caused the damage. After some discussion and photo taking from me, they agreed they had caused the damage and exchanged details with Bob and Leonne, who had arrived back at their car.

These things happen and we were happy to have seen it, otherwise it would not have been owned up to or covered.

But with it all on paper we set off again.

We stopped for lunch at a small free camp/rest area and made some food. It had gotten strangely warm, given the past few days, and so we took the opportunity to dress better and soak up some vitamin D. However we did not stay outside for too long. There was an insane amount of sandflies in the area and we were all being eaten alive! So once our food was ready, we all thankfully piled into Bob and Leonne’s campervan and ate at their table. We had been thankful for their inside table before, but this by far was the best time for it. And even though it was stifling hot inside, we enjoyed our food and then set off again.

The rest of the drive for me was spent with my eyes closed. I may have taken a longish nap after lunch and woken just in time to get to Franz Josef. The drive I hear though was nice but quite windy through the mountains. Good thing I was asleep then.

We checked into the caravan park and cooked dinner in a pretty awesome campers kitchen. We did so with so many other Europeans, with of course some other Dutchies in there too, because you guys are everywhere! Ending the evening with some board games and the delicious liquid that is Sambucca!


The next morning we were awake very early because it was the day we would be going on Bob’s 31st birthday present from all of us. We were going Heli Hiking up Franz Josef Glacier!

We checked in, waited till it was time to go through, were then given gear and got all dressed and ready to go, when one of the staff with a big smile on his face said the tour had been cancelled due to weather…

At first everyone looked around and thought he was joking given the big smile he was wearing. But then he just kept saying they were sorry and it would possibly be postponed till later on in the day.

Sadly we took off all our gear and headed out to the reception desk where we booked in to go on the tour again in the afternoon.

Given it was quite early in the day we still had a lot of time to fill until the afternoon, so we decided to walk to the glacier and see it from below before the tour.

There was an option to begin the walk from town, but it would take 5ish hours and no one has time for that when you can drive to the parking lot! Once there it was only an hours walk round trip, which we ended up doing and then some. We took photos you see.

Along the way we could see waterfalls and as we got closer a better picture of the glacier itself, which based on the walk in had receded quite a lot over time in recent years.






We really enjoyed the walk, getting a little warm as the weather had changed again since the day before. When we got back into town the cloud coverage that had stopped the tour that morning seemed to still be around, so before going to check on our afternoon tour we decided to eat.

Lunch was delicious at some Asian fusion place and then we went to find out the news. And the news was not what we were hoping.

The tour that afternoon had also been cancelled due to the cloud coverage and weather. In turn we could stay in town another night and try again in the morning. We would not be able to get on a Heli Hike that time as everything was booked out, but we would get on a helicopter flight over the glacier and that would be spectacular also.

So with the next day planned, we headed back to the caravan park from the night before and then made use if their spa. We had it to ourselves for quite some time which the other three enjoyed, whilst I sat on the edge.

After that well, our night was similar to the one before; we ate, we played games and drank Sambuca straight, it was wonderful.

So it’s the next day and we are up even earlier because the flight was scheduled earlier. We get to the office slightly too early but we wanted to be sure. They had not gotten any news of whether flights would be happening or not, so we took seats in their courtesy beanbags.

Whilst seated, we could overhear some issues in regards to weather being discussed. After half an hour of easdropping, it was somewhat clear that all flights that morning had been cancelled and the rest of the day looked similar. At this point we went up to the desk to clarify what we had heard. It was confired that our flight was definitely cancelled and as such we would not be seeing the glacier from above and Bob’s birthday present was no longer.

With the tour cancelled again we got our money back and set off out of Franz Joseph. Onto another adventure and hopefully another surprise gift for Bob’s birthday…


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