Thursday, July 21, 2011

Franz Josef Glacier

There are two main glaciers people visit while in NZ. Franz Josef and Fox. They are with 50km’s of each other and actually come front the same glacier at the top of the mountain range, but split off in their respective valleys. We arrived at Franz Josef in the evening and found a cheap double room at the Franz Chateau. It’s not actually a chateau but a hostel, but I loved it as in addition to the heater in the room, we had electric blankets! This was the first time I was toasty warm since arriving in NZ. I didn’t want to leave the room!

That night it was pouring rain. It was more like a torrential downpour combined with hail. I thought the streets were going to flood as I watched the rivers of rain on the streets. In addition to the pouring rain we had thunder and lighting. It was all very exciting until the power went out. Andrew went to check out the situation but I stayed behind to hold on to the warmth of the electric blankets. We now had to heat at all! Luckily the power came back on within 30 minutes but as soon as it came on a siren started wailing just down the street. We had no idea what the siren was, and everyone in the hostel as well as the surrounding hostels came out to see. We were close to the sea and we thought it might be a Tsunami warning. The worst part was the owners of the hostel had left for the night so there was no one to tell us what was going on. After a good 10 minutes Andrew and I got into our car and drove around looking for the source to discover it’s the volunteer firefighter’s station and that’s the siren they use to call the volunteer fire fighters in case of emergency. The fire alarm had gone off in the YHA next door. Once the firefighters arrived the siren went off. When I actually looked at the map later on, we weren’t that close to the Tasman Sea so a tsunami wasn’t really a concern here. It just goes to show how paranoid we had become about a tsunami.

The next day it was still pouring. We had planned on doing a guided glacier hike but it didn’t look very appealing in the rain. We stayed in bed for a good portion of the day but went for a drive to the Fox glacier village just to see what was in the area. When we came back we went to see what the weather would be like the next day to see if we could do a glacier hike and the weather looked somewhat promising for the next morning so we booked a half day hike.

We woke up early the next day and put on our warmest clothes, had a good hearty breakfast and walked over to the office where we were to meet the guide. It was still raining but not too bad and we were hoping it was going to clear up. As we waited in line to check in we found out all the hikes had been cancelled for the day due to extreme weather coming in. We were so disappointed! Now what were we going to do for the rest of the day? We decided to do the walking trail which would take us right up to the Franz Josef glacier. It was the next best thing to actually climbing the glacier. We did the 1.5 hour return walk without encountering any rain. It was windy and cold, but no rain. We felt ripped off (even though we got our money back…although we did end up losing $13 from the return because of the exchange rate) as we could have done the hike! After that we drove to the Fox Glacier village to do another hour walk. It would turn out the extreme weather didn’t come in until that night, with some serious thunder and lighting. Andrew said it had been the biggest thunder and lightning storm he had ever seen, but I slept through it all. It seems I can sleep through pretty much anything.

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