Alan breaks the rules at Franz Josef Glacier

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Oceania » New Zealand » South Island » Franz Josef
November 26th 2007
Published: November 30th 2007
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At Franz Josef Glacier, Robert parks the car, then walks with us on the paved path to the viewing area. It seems odd to be traveling through a temperate rainforest to reach a pile of cold ice. Trees arch overhead forming a green tunnel while birds entertain us with their songs.

At the end of the pavement, Robert encourages us to walk the path in the riverbed to the foot of the glacier.

“It will take about 45 minutes but be sure to stay behind the ropes,” he says. “It’s dangerous to go any farther.”

When Alan and I enter the riverbed, the path is rocky but passable. Soon, we reach a series of stepping stones that cross a large creek. I debate the advisability of going on.

About that time, a British tourist crosses the creek and notices my hesitance. “Oh, you must go on,” he says. “And, be sure to go beyond the ropes to where the river pours out of the glacier. It makes a spectacular photograph.”

I roll up my jeans legs and follow Alan across the creek. What’s the worst that can happen? Wet feet?

The British tourist, who has been observing my tentative hops across the water, claps when I reach the other side.

Alan and I continue our hike until we reach the rope that marks the safe boundary. Only those with experienced guides can continue.

“I’m going on,” Alan says.

“But the sign says, don’t go any farther,” I say, never one to break the rules.

“I’m going anyway.”

Sitting down on a large rock, I reply, “That’s fine, I’ll stay behind to collect the insurance.”

I watch Alan disappear around the corner. Looking up onto the glacier, I observe a guided party stepping down the glacier on stairs the leader cuts out of the ice.

What if a chunk of the glacier falls off? What will happen to Alan?

Eventually, I see the top of a wide-brimmed straw hat approaching and I know he is safe for another day.

Returning to the car, Robert drives to our lodging for the night, Franz Josef Country Retreat. The replica of an historic hotel sits on a farm with a mountain view.

Since we are the only guests, Alan and I are upgraded to a large room with a Jacuzzi tub in the bathroom. From the window, we can see cows grazing in the pasture and a lake beyond the trees.

We meet Robert in the lounge (living room) for wine and cheese. The manager serves our dinner at a dining table that sits in the bay window area of the lounge. As the sun’s last rays stream through the windows, we enjoy venison with strawberry cream brule for dessert, a sweet ending to a beautiful day.

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