Can’t believe its been 5 months since we’ve been travelling!
We did a housesit in Christchurch before this part of the trip to the glaciers and returned to the same housesit afterwards. I’ll probably write about it another time, mainly did a bit of chilling out and admin. Yep admin still happens when you’re a travelling hobo.
So probably the best bit of New Zealand so far. It’s not so bad when it doesn’t rain! This blog isn’t exactly linear but I wanted to save the glaciers for last.
Some snaps of views along Arthur’s Pass- the main route between Christchurch on the east coast and Westland, funnily enough on the west coast. Westland is where the famous Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glaciers are found (there are plenty more glaciers in NZ actually).
Arthur’s Pass was named after the first European discovery by a man named Arthur Dudley Dobson in 1864 although the Maori were already using this route!
The drive is pretty stunning.
Keas (alpine parrots found on South Island) attacking our car. People stupidly feed them and they become pests. Please don’t feed them, they’re not supposed to eat human food it’s most likely not good for them and they become reliant on people and start to pester you. They can also damage your tents, cars etc. The same for seagulls, you think it’s funny to feed them but they become aggressive and then start to swoop in and steal your food (which has happened to us in the past). An example of the worst case scenario, the bears in America that are used to human food/humans become dangerous and can end up being killed.
You’re not doing these guys (or us) a favour.
Close up of a kea near some shrubbery by the car.
We found some time to do a bit of tramping along Arthur’s Pass.
I’m trying to be arty and took a picture of a fallen tree through the hole of its root base.
I found a green mossy hand!
We visted this place further up westland called Punakaiki Rocks (aka Pancake rocks). Basically there are layers of 2 different kinds of rocks – mudstone and limestone. The weather and sea have eroded the mudstone more than the limestone thus enhancing the pancake effect. According to the info boards, geologists still don’t really know why it’s layered.
We went to Lake Matheson near Fox Glacier. On lucky days when the stars are in the correct alignment whilst wearing the right coloured pants and there’s no wind and a nice blue sky you can get a reflection of the mountains in the lake below.
So warming up to glaciers now (do you get it?!) They’re basically a massive river of ice that moves very very slowly. Franz Josef Glacier moves about 6 metres a day or a week (whatever it is) due to its steep angle, others move about 1 metre. You can a find cool time lapse video on youtube. For some more info on how glaciers are formed check this short blurb out (I’d insert a hyperlink but this tablet is not playing ball)
Looking towards Fox Glacier.
We did the valley walk at Fox Glacier. It’s astonishing how much the glacier has retreated by, in 1750 it’s retreated by a couple of kilometres (way past the car park at the trail head). Glaciers might disappear in our lifetime.
The landscape is pretty interesting, massive vertical carved rocks on one side and the other covered in some greenery and rocky landslides and a rocky terrain to walk across.
Lots of landslides happen here, there were a couple of bits where you’re not supposed to stop walking…
Fox Glacier – where the sunlight and shadow meet below is where the glacier is. We went at 7pm so the sun was setting but it made for a nicer walk as a lot of people had already gone! This glacier is a bit dirty from the mountain dust and is a lot flatter than the Franz Josef Glacier although it is a lot longer (I think it was 14k?)
Franz Josef Glacier! We did the valley hike twice, the second time because our Ice Explorer hike got cancelled (again) due to bad weather but we met some awesome people from California and Hawaii to tramp with and I really enjoyed the first walk. These spontaneous meetings are cool because less than 30 mins after meeting them at breakfast we decided to go tramp with them.
This terrain isn’t as rocky compared with Fox although it is more green.
Pretty majestic! It’s actually pretty good on cloudy days, you get a pretty good atmosphere (there I go again!)
Here are the guys we met, Annie on the right and Kim second from the right – everyone is her friend!
The glacier itself (looking at the terminus). You can’t quite tell from here but it’s massive. Remember this picture, as I’ll be referring to it later.
We booked an Ice Explorer hike on Franz Josef Glacier and were super looking forward to it as we did it before in Canada and that was AWESOME! One of my best ever experiences and better than tramping on land.Third time lucky (the first 2 times were cancelled) and we ended up probably being the lucky people who got to go that week as the weather was terrible the other days.
Helicopters are loud.
Chunky glacier. When you look up close, it’s small chunks of ice that are fitted in like jigsaw pieces.They’re also a bit sharp.
So remember the photo of us looking at the glacier (the end of it is called a terminus) earlier, we’re now on the bit below that dark patch in the middle. See how massive it is? The glacier used to be as high as the surrounding mountains (see below pic) and in fact held the mountains in place and now that its no longer there, landslides happen.
We had to wear stupid bumbags, I guess because the Franz Josef guiding company don’t want people to cary massive rucksacks onto their helicopter and using more fuel than neccessary (we got weighed and placed into various seating positions on the helicopter).
It’s not actually that cold, only a couple of degrees colder than on land. I ended up carrying the stupid jacket for 3 hours.
Look at how steep it is! Below there is a kea trying to scavenge from a couple of climbers below. They can get into packs and ruin ropes.
Here’s a wider shot of the above. So this bit of rock you see is the bit of rock/the shadowy bit) in that earlier picture when we did the valley walk and looked up at the glacier. At some point during the movement of the glacier, this bit of rock got exposed and melts the glacier a bit faster because of the heat that it absorbs. If we’re unlucky then the glacier will split into 2 and melt even faster.
There is a divide of some sort further down from the rock, see below. The glacier is moving on top of rock.
Nothing is as pure as this bit of water.
It may be a few weeks until the next post, we picked up a campervan a week ago saturday for the last bit in New Zealand (Queenstown, Milford Sound etc) and there’s not a lot of wifi in the middle of nowhere.
We fly to to Singapore on December 10th, then heading to Kuala Lumpur and Hong Kong for Christmas with friends. Plan to head to Vietnam overland through China and that’s it so far, no idea what’s after!