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Published: June 13th 2018
Arriving in the torrential rain, Franz Joseph was still every bit as beautiful as we remembered. The one 'main' street - consisting of a couple of bars/restaurants, a small grocery store, a gift shop and many an flight company offering scenic tours and heli hiking - is accompanied by a smaller second offering just behind it with mainly campsites nestled in the bush. Looking up that main street, when the views are clear, the towering snow capped peaks steal your attention instantly.
Franz Joseph exists because of its glacier, snaking down the valley and carving our the mountain side to the village. Our purpose then was to see this mighty, living block of ice once more. Taking the moraine trail, just a short walk through more bush before opening up to the vast flat gravelly valley remaining, the terminal face of the glacier was still some way off. It seemed small, further away than recollections lead us to believe. Then, we read the plaques and saw the terrible pictures of how this powerful natural creation had shrunk drastically between 2008 and 2012. Given such a change in a 4 year period, the vast shrinking that was now evident over these
past 5 or so years was all too starkly real.
Being such a clear and sunny day it seemed appropriate to keep going with our glacier trail and head the half an hour's winding mountain road to Fox Glacier. Another town existing also for it's proximity to the icefall and with even less of presence. The moraine walk here makes you feel small. The towering mountains each side of you, snow scattered on the tops, bush in the mid-view and shear rock faces dropping into the moraine. The trail is more rustic, less visited and the end result more stunning. The rugged, towering ice has a huge presence; strong, impassable from the valley floor, and vastly beautiful.
The following day our travels took us to Lake Matheson, where some of the best reflection in the country can be had - both Mount Tasman and Mount Cook show upside down in the waters on a clear day. Driving into the car park gave us views of both - for a couple of minutes at least. The clouds soon wisped around the tops and hung over Mount Cook, the highest peak here, for the rest of the day. However, on
such a still occasion there were incredible reflections to be had. The lake loop circuit, once again in bush, snuck out to the waters edge at just the right points for the best views.
Here by the lake, is Reflections Gallery; a place from which many a Christmas present has been ordered over the past years so it was on our list to meet the one lady who had helped us all this time, and with whom we'd shared local postcards and emails since. We were so pleased she was still working there and around today; such a great delight to finally put a face to the name.
Leaving here our journey today took us to Haast, on the edge of Mount Aspiring NP. Following the West coast, calm and flat seas to our right and towering snow capped mountains popping into view with any break in the bush made for the most stunning drive... all topped of with the most colourful sunset we've seen in a very long time.
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