28 November 2017

NZ Travel Diary : Franz Josef Glacier

Our trip down the west coast of New Zealand's south island took us to the Franz Josef Glacier. Located in the Westland Tai Poutini National Park, it's surrounded by a World Heritage Site. The Glacier is 12km long, finishing about 19km from the Tasman Sea. It's possible to walk up to the Glacier through the Valley Walk, which is what we chose to do, or you can pay for a guided 8 hour hike or even do a helicopter tour. There are lots of options to choose from, so make sure you do your research before hand!

We walked from the Franz Josef village to the start of the Valley track (which takes about an hour) and then completed the track in about 2 hours. I would highly recommend doing this track if you're in Franz Josef: it's free, not too physically demanding, and the entire track is stunning, not just the end where you can see the edge of the Glacier. 

The landscape here was unlike anything I had seen in New Zealand. Unlike a lot of the valleys we had been too, this one has harsher characteristics: stones covering the entire floor beneath your feet, the river that can flood at an alarming rate.

New Zealand feels like a magical land that at the end of the world that has been forgotten. The drive down the west coast, and from Franz Josef to Wanaka were among the most wondrous I had ever experienced. It's simply impossible to convey through words the pure beauty and magnitude of the landscape, a reminder of it's diverse beauty and of course how precious and fragile it is too.

The walk to the glacier from the village took us around 2 and a half hours: an hour to walk to the start of the Glacier track and a further hour and a half to complete. This landscape was possibly the most unforgiving I had seen: jagged rocks, huge piles created by various rock-slides over the years and streams that could quickly flood if the rainfall was heavy enough. This area in front of the Glacier instantly reminded me of fictional lands I have so often lost myself in, a place where giants & dragons roam free, untroubled by the quarrels of man.
Our bus stayed at the Rainforest Retreat, possibly the nicest accommodation we stayed in during our trip. It could be considered as a 4 to 5 star hostel, we were still in 6 bed dorms, but the bathrooms were exceptionally nice with hair dryers & straighteners and even a television. The large kitchen, albeit only accessible when going outside, was clean & large enough for all guests. 

Monsoon is a restaurant located just outside of our accommodation, offering a nice variety of foods. I enjoyed a lovely veggie burger & Holly had a bean nachos which was ok but nothing special. Not a memorable dinner but a good place to go for a decently priced meal.

That concludes this post, we have quite a few more Travel posts coming up in the upcoming weeks - for those who have been keeping up-to-date I hope you have been enjoying them!

Holly & Summer

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