Sunday, January 20, 2013

Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers

On December 28, we spent the day exploring the two most accessible glaciers in New Zealand. We were hoping to do some ice climbing, but one glacier company wasn't running trips anymore and the other didn't have room for both of us (even though I tried to book over a month in advance). We considered doing a guided hike instead, but we figured since we had spent plenty of time exploring St. Mary's Glacier in Colorado ourselves, that we didn't need to spend our money on that kind of trip, though lots of people say they're awesome (you're not allowed on the glacier without a guide). Anyway, we first visited Franz Josef Glacier, where there was a 45 minute hike to get near the face of it. This picture shows our view near the start of the walk.

Along the way, there were massive waterfalls to enjoy and a strangely colored gray river leading out from the glacier. I'm standing next to the waterfall in the picture below, so that may give you an idea of its size, and that doesn't even include the upper part of it!

When we got closer to the glacier, I was struck by the blue hues in the ice. I've never seen anything like that in snow, and it looked really cool (ha-literally!).

We, um, sort of snuck under a barrier rope to walk farther along the path to get closer to the glacier. To be fair, lots of other people did it too (I know, I know), but that included a guided glacier group, so I knew it couldn't be that dangerous. That meant we got to see this ice cave and got a much better view of the blue hued glacier.

A nice, older California couple took this picture, and we ended up walking all the way back to the parking lot with them, chatting the whole time. They were traveling around the South Island in the opposite direction as us, so it was fun to swap stories about what we'd seen and where to go.

Then it was time to head to Fox Glacier, only thirty minutes away from Franz Josef. On the way, we stopped at Lake Matheson, hoping for some good pictures of snowy Mount Cook reflected in the lake. No such luck, but when the clouds parted for a brief moment, I did get a glimpse of the big mountain we would see later in our trip from the other side.

When we got to Fox Glacier, we saw that it would have been another walk of over an hour to get close to the face of it, so we decided to just see what we could see from some lookout points and call it good. It seemed pretty similar to Franz Josef in that there were waterfalls in the nearby area, blue hues in the ice, and a long walk to get near it. There was this funky pond (pictured here) with bright green and blue colors in it that was kind of unique.
Fox Glacier
After our time at the glaciers, we had a three hour drive to Wanaka, where we would spend the night. More on Wanaka tomorrow!

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