Published: January 9th 2012December 23rd 2011
When I saw pictures of my friends doing glacier hike in Facebook, I’m determined I will do it one day. And then when planning the trip, I realized there is more than one choice. The famous options are: Franz Josef Glacier or Fox Glacier. I googled up view images and see the videos as well – and decided to do the Franz Josef. Why? Well, from what I read – the Fox Glacier requires more bush walking before you’re in front of the glacier itself. Besides, Franz Josef looks bigger.
I already set my expectation that the glacier will not be all blue like in the cartoon. From what I saw in the internet, it will actually be dusty grey with dirt everywhere. And indeed that was the case. Well, unless you climb really far up, or take the Heli-Hike option where a helicopter will take you up then you hike from there.
For our own safety, pls don’t do it yourself. Take the glacier tour, because there’s actually a demarcation line where you can’t pass without guide. We actually saw of tourist who crossed the line and then being approached by man in uniform. Not sure whether he
got fined or not. Anyway, the guiding service will also provide everything for you. From boots, jacket, crampons, gloves, etc. We took the half day glacier hike, which cost 123 NZD. But there are also other options in case you want to take the full day hike, or the Heli-Hike.
Although it was summer, but I thought it would be cold since it’s glacier. But apparently not. I put on 3 layers of shirts; but some people only wear shorts. The boots + crampons are not comfortable (plus it looks ugly) but you’ll need it for the terrain. You can’t do it on regular sneakers as it’s slippery and rocky. Do remember – NO JEANS, as it’ll get heavy when wet.
Was it tough? Well, depends on your fitness level I guess. We have a couple that opted out at the base of the glacier, like – before the hike. But we do have a lot of kids joining and they are fine. With snapping pictures, pain from the boots plus hardly any protein for 6 days – I’m way at the back of the pack. I told M just to go ahead, we’ll just meet each other
at the bus, at the end of the hike. He didn’t say anything. But he remains within 50 feet away from me. Every time our distance becomes too far, he would slow down his pace or stop to take (unnecessary) pictures. If he can’t hear my steps for too long, he would discreetly look back every now and then – making sure I’m still alive. Much appreciated, my friend :) I was somehow tempted to hide behind the bushes or rocks, and see how long would it take for him to walk back then try to find me ha ha ha…
But for me, the highlight of the day is not the glacier hike. It’s Lake Matheson, a short 40 mins drive from Franz Josef. We took the famous “Reflection Island” route – where at the end of the path, there’s a location where you can see the reflection of the mountains at the lake. We turned right instead of left, because M insisted that it’s going to the same point and suppose to be shorter. Apparently it’s the perfect decision; because on the way we pass by this gorgeous field with the perfect blue sky. The clouds were
just swipey and beautiful. There’s even a very plump pigeon sitting peacefully at the fence! Not scared by human at all. What awed me, there were several benches – clearly built to enjoy the view. Aaaahhh, now that’s life…
The rest of the walk was quiet, although every now and then there are people going to the other direction. But that’s good. Meaning we’re on the right path. After a good 45 mins walk or so, we finally got to the other side of the lake. There’s the reflection! It’s not perfect though, because the wind ripples the water. But I don’t really mind. Fresh air, perfect weather, breezy wind, gorgeous view – what else could I ask for?
The Department of Conservation clearly agrees that the view is a show on it’s own – because they provided long wood benches right there. I asked permission to M to take my time there, I don’t want to leave just yet. I just want to take it all in. We ended up sitting there for like 1-1.5 hours or so. Enjoying life. For a short while, life felt…. Perfect… If you’re not amazed by my pictures – that’s fine!
Because trust me, even a semi pro SLR camera cannot perfectly translate the awesomeness (and also perhaps because I’m just an amateur ha ha ha)
Then out of nowhere – one of my colleagues, Dan, from the office said hi! Wow! What are the odds? 8500 km away, almost in the middle of nowhere (Lake Matheson is not exactly New York) – and there we were! At the same time. Dan said our other colleague is also there – so in total there’s like 5-6 people from my company going to NZ on almost the same time frame. Wow. We should’ve bargain for a company rate ha ha ha…
Dan’s daughter then jumped into the brown water with her bikini. Well, good for her. She looks happy. M said she looks like a blonde swan and ripples the already crinkey water. Ha ha… It’s ok lah – let her enjoy life.
It’s getting late and I had to drag myself to leave. Before I go, I remember taking deep breaths with closed eyes… I want to engrave this moment in my life… It’s another 12 out of 10 happiness level for me. A bit sad because there’s
a big possibility I will never ever be back at the exact same spot. Even if I try to, it would never be the same…
We then took another short drive to view Fox Glacier from afar. I just don’t have any energy left to bush walk to take picture from the base. I’m sure Fox Glacier looks amazing. But for me somehow, it was overshadowed by the mesmerizing Lake Matheson…
In the afternoon, suddenly got a text message from my family who were having their vacation in Hong Kong. They asked whether I was alright. At that moment I didn’t understand and was left puzzled. But then we found out that 2 big earthquakes have hit Christchurch earlier that day. It might not be the biggest quakes, but significant enough so that my family heard the news in Hong Kong (because they lived in Indonesia). That must’ve been why the rocks were falling when we were up at the Franz Josef glacier. Had we have different itinerary… Had we left Christchurch late… And here we are with perfect blue sky. Safe and sound. I thank God for keeping us safe. Hopefully there’s no casualties there in Christchurch
as well… Tips:
• If you really want to do nice hiking, take the Heli Hike option. A helicopter will take you to a higher ground where you’ll hike from there. The ice is more blue and “pure”.
• For the hike, don’t use jeans. Keep your load very light. Small backpack is still allowed.
• For any walks in NZ, make sure you follow the mark from Department of Conservation. Bring lots of water. Be prepared that you might walk longer than the marked estimated time – especially if you take pictures or stop a lot.
• Perhaps I watched too many episodes of “I Shouldn’t be Alive” about people got lost in the wild and almost got killed. But I think it’s always a good idea to let other people know where you’re going and when you are expected to get back – so they can raise the alarm in case something wrong with you. In extreme terrain, put cost saving aside and just take a guide with you
To view more of my travel pictures – pls go to http://www.flickr.com/photos/ariyanti_p/sets/72157628705874019/