Fahren zu Franz Josef

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March 25th 2016
Published: March 30th 2016
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So this is to be my first experience of the competition. Intercity didn't work right for me time wise for this next move from Wanaka to Franz Josef so I'm with their main competition Naked Bus. Stupid name for a company and one of the reasons for putting me off them over Intercity in the first instance and then on further investigation their worse reviews. But mostly because I could book earlier in advance with Intercity, and get in with my many $1 'golden tickets'.

I'm not impressed when a minibus and trailer for luggage turns up. My back's still hurting from horse riding so four hours in rubbish knee room, uncomfortable seats is not my idea of fun. Luckily the passing scenery is stunning which helps take my mind off physical niggles. We are travelling through the Haast (of the massive eagle fame - the one's that could take a human being off in its massive talons) pass, a twisting, turning road through tree lined hillsides. I can see why people love to hire a camper van in this region as the freedom campsites by the sides of lakes with stunning mountain views all around are truly magical. If I had more time, and someone to share all the driving and expense I'd probably do the same, but needs must.

We pass some more open areas with flat, wide, slow-moving rivers, the sun glistening and twinkling off the grey-blue water. Oh my, it's so stunningly beautiful here. It's like a hundred Lake Districts rolled into one, but on a more massive scale, there's just so much of it and most totally unpopulated.

We pass through Haast and suddenly it's flat like Norfolk. What's weird is there's a sign proudly listing World Heritage Site status. This must be for the wider area as a whole surely! Every time I look towards the front of the bus it makes me chuckle as it seems Howard from work is driving the bus. He even sounds like him!

Due to Naked Bus making odd time table changes and the bus driver still having to accommodate people who booked before the changes, we arrive quite a bit later than the schedule suggested. So verdict - Intercity is streets ahead of Naked Bus in my limited experience.

As I head towards my hostel I see what an amazing setting it's in - Franz Joseph Glacier as a back drop, not bad! I check in, then on the advice of the hostel check-in guy I head off in baking hot sunshine, not a cloud in the sky, on what he says will be a 45 minute walk to the glacier car park then another hour to the glacier viewing area itself. Apart from being really hot as there's no shade, the start of the walk seems promising. I cross a wobbly road bridge over an extremely fast moving river and hope this isn't the day it fails in spectacular fashion. Then there's a long walk alongside the same river with camper vans and cars passing me, whizzing off to the car park with ease.

Soon however, there's a lovely, cool, shady footpath made for pedestrians through the woods so us walkers can avoid noisy, smelly cars. For a while it's really enjoyable until I realise that the sign says it's another 30 minutes to the glacier car park. Thirty minutes?! I'm already quarter of an hour over the hostel guy's estimate of 45 minutes! Something tells me he's never tried this walk himself. Adding insult to injury the heavens suddenly open. From not a cloud in the sky, blazing hot sunshine it's suddenly chucking it down. Miraculously I'd chucked an umbrella in my bag as an after thought so am saved a complete drenching. I reach a glacier viewing area over looking a pretty lake with rain bouncing off the surface and find I'm not the only one under prepared for a change in weather as lots of soaked people are huddling under a hoping for the rain to ease off one poor girl lying under the interpretation board! Amazingly the view of the Franz Josef Glassier is still surrounded by blue skies so I get some lovely shots and decide this is good enough. Sod the extra hours walk (probably more like three hours going by the highly inaccurate guesstimate of how far from the hostel the car park is) to get closer to the glacier. It would probably be covered by mist by the time I got there anyway.

Instead I head back down the pretty pedestrian path sheltering as best I can beneath my umbrella, still getting pretty wet on my legs. I make a wrong turn at one point and begin to realise my mistake when I find myself walking up too much and don't recognise the path. I ask a girl on her way down who confirms I've gone the wrong way. s been completing a different walk and says she hadn't had any rain at all. How weird. It's finally stopped now by the way. I get back on the right track and eventually find myself back on the main road by the side of the river. True to form this last section seems to take forever compared to the outward journey but at least it's stopped raining and the sun's out again I get back to my hostel exhausted but happy that I did at least get to the pretty pool viewing area of the glacier. I take a much needed shower and then go off to see if there are any supermarkets open on Good Friday. Luckily there are so I cook up a big load of spaghetti and chick pea based veggie bolognaise sauce to last me a few days and stuff myself silly as a reward for all the walking to glaciers I've done over the last two days. I go to bed really early, unheard of for me, and crash out, not even waking when some new people arrive.

Just as well, I'll need my energy for tomorrow as I'm kayaking! Blimey, so much exercise - I'm supposed to be on holiday! Well I never was the beach bum type, way too boring.

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