We left Queenstown around 1pm when we had originally planned to leave at noon. We were told we need to get through the Haast Pass before 5pm or else we would get stuck overnight. We speedily made our way over and just made it. We passed by Lake Parringa where we initially had hoped to have a salmon dinner at a local salmon farm but per usual it closes at 4pm.
I was told by a friend that everything in NZ closes early I just didn’t really how early.
We headed onto Franz Josef. This day was all about driving. About half an hour from our hotel our primary driver was exhausted and needed a break so I took over. Having not driven for over a day it felt like learning how to drive again. It’s even more exciting when you add hairpin turns down a mountain and one way bridges.
We woke up the next morning to pouring rain. The west coast of the South Island is filled with lush greenery because of the abundant rainfall. I had wanted to partake in a heli-hike. It’s when they take you up in a helicopter and show you the glaciers from up above and then land you on the glacier itself and a guide takes you on a tour. Poor visibility grounded all the helicopters. The only way to walk on a glacier is by helicopter.
We spent about 30 minutes hiking to the glacier terminal to view the Franz Josef glacier. It was still pouring rain but it would come in waves and alternate between pouring and drizzling. We walked along a trail that can only be described as walking on Mars. I had on multiple layers and my snowboarding outerwear. I’m ever more thankful I decided to invest in Burton AK2 Gore-tex snowboarding clothing because it kept me dry on the inside while the rest of my friends were soaked.
The glacier is impressive. I didn’t really expect much, it’s melted a lot in the recent years and they place the viewing platform about 250 meters away because it is unstable and can break at anytime. We only stayed a few minutes and headed back since everyone was drenched. We stopped by the waterfalls. In our guidebook there was a photo of people standing under the waterfalls. It’s probably more enjoyable when it’s warmer.
We headed back to our hotel to change clothes and use the dryer to dry our drenched clothes.