Franz Josef Glacier
Happy Birthday to me, happy birthday to me :D
Thanks to everyone for my birthday wishes it was fantastic being so far away from home and receiving those messages. I had also brought some of my cards with me so it was lovely to open those and put them on show at the front of the van. Today we were driving to Franz Josef as we were booked on a heli-hike for 2.15pm. If we have learnt anything so far it is that distance means nothing in New Zealand, it's all about the terrain. Getting from one side of the South Island to the other means crossing mountains and with weather as changeable as the UK and driving the beast, journeys take longer than the guidebooks tell you. As well as this, there is the scenery to contend with. Not only are the mountains within sight at all times, there are beautiful lakes and towns to contend with as well. We stopped more than we should have but not as much as we wanted to on the journey and so were late getting to Franz Josef. We rang ahead to say we wouldn't make the trip only to be told it had been cancelled due to the weather. The reason we had booked ourselves on the afternoon trip was purely so that if the weather was bad we were giving ourselves the best chance of getting on the glacier by being able to go up the next morning.
When we booked into the site, we asked the lady how long the trip to Kaikoura would take, and were astounded when she said about 10 to 11 hours! Our guidebooks had told us 6 hours and we had hoped to stop at a town called Greymouth on the way to have a look at the New Zealand jade and just have a break in the journey. So a decision had to be made about the heli-hike trip as we wouldn't be back until mid-day if we went on it. It was something we both really wanted to do though so we decided to take the risk even though we wouldn't know until 9am whether or not we would be able to get up the mountain.
The weather in Franz Josef was awful. The clouds were really low and there was a dampness in the air all the time except when it was raining. I don't think we saw it at its best even though it did seem to me to be a bit of a one-trick-pony of a town. By that I mean that the big draw is the glacier and not much else. We drove into town to get something to eat and wet to Alice May's on recommendation. The food was very nice although the waiter/maitre d' really wound me up. He was so bad at his job and so rude I could imagine my dad and Uncle Peter moaning about him whilst I ate. Not the best birthday I have ever had but there is more than enough time to make up for it.
When we woke up the next morning the weather hadn't cleared and in fact I had been kept awake some of the night by the rain on the roof of the van. We had already been warned that the helicopters wouldn't go up if it was raining because it was too dangerous to land on the slippery ice. We got ready anyway, ever hopeful, but when we got to reception we were told that the trip had been cancelled. Incredibly disappointed but in some small way relieved, we trudged back to our campervan and got ready for the trip north to Kaikoura. On our way out of town we did drive up to a view point where you could walk to the face of the glacier. We started to walk but realised we had taken the wrong route and wouldn't have time to walk on. We got dome photos and slightly disheartened got into the van and on the road.
PS. The Queenstown entry is out of order and should be read before this one :D