Day Eight – Franz Josef Glacier – New Zealand

Today was the day of adventure…….

…..until we woke up and realised the weather was really shit! Like so shit that we couldn’t see the top of the mountain let alone where the glacier was! So we were kind of expecting the bad news……

Still, ever the optimist I set off for my first adventure, quad biking through the terminal moraine! After a quick run through of how to use the quad bike, and a test drive around the course to make sure you weren’t some nufty who would take out the whole group because they forgot where the brake was, we set off at a hefty pace over the river beds.


The terminal moraine of Franz Josef glacier looks like a moonscape. Kilometres of unconsolidated rock. All this rock had been transported either by the glacier or by the river which is fed by the glacier. It was a barren, harsh landscape.



But it was also incredibly fun to ride over on a quad bike. Dodging large rocks and trying to make sure you didn’t fly off when your tyres hit a rock and your handlebars slid out from under you, we flew over the moraine until we came to the side and entered a beautiful rainforest. Such a difference to the moonscape. Lush and green with huge ferns, we sped along muddy tracks and flew through creek beds, the water so deep it would come halfway up my legs. The splash was huge and I began to try and position the bike so that I could hit the trees with my splashing!

Coming back out onto the moraine we looked up and there it was! Franz Josef glacier……


….now here begins a story behind my passion for seeing the Franz Josef glacier up front and personal. When I decided to go back to uni to study Zoology, one of my first units was a subject called Physical Geography, led by non other than my Long-Suffering Mentor. One of the first slides she showed us was a google earth image of the Franz Josef glacier. I had never heard of a glacier before and I was fascinated with the dynamics and science surrounding this thing! I began watching glacier YouTubes and how they move. It was utterly fascinating to me! So it only seemed fitting that I would see the glacier with my Long-Suffering Mentor! It worked out well……

The glacier was stunning, and as though it was showing off the sun would come out and reflect off the blue ice, revealing the liquid water that flows under and through the glacier itself. Having stood on the moraine with my mouth open making some sort of “Gah” noise, the tour guide worriedly encouraged us to get back on our bikes, and we spent the next hour flying up rock walls and down crevices and bouncing around on the huge rocks, and then back through the forest for more fun splashing through the streams.

On our return I wandered back to the JUCY van to find a very solemn LSM who had booked a heli-hike up to Fox Glacier and was nervously waiting to hear if it was still going ahead. The weather was still really bad, rain and high winds – not really conducive to helicopter flights.

I had also booked a helicopter flight which would fly me around Franz Josef glacier and then land me on the ice of the glacier itself so I could take photos, get some rock samples and lick some ice. But, alas the weather gods were against me and the flight had been cancelled. I was devastated. I actually felt slightly ill. It was something that I really had wanted to do and the only way you can get to the glacier is by helicopter – all public access to the glacier has been taken away.

And so, it wasn’t to be this time for LSM either, so being who we are – strong independent and intelligent women, we immediately went to a café and had comfort food……and started a devious plan……

We packed up the JUCY and headed towards Franz Josef glacier and started to climb the scenic walk to a viewing platform of the glacier. The view was pretty good but it was really far away. I would have liked to smell it and touch it and jump on it and cause an avalanche.  Anyway……when we returned we noticed there was a summit walk for 1.5 hours to see the glacier within 750m! Wooppeeee! But beggars can’t be choosers so we made plans to return the next day and see what we could do.





Being in a really shitty mood, LSM managed to get herself into the hot springs with the direction that she was not to come back to the JUCY van without being so relaxed that she could stretch like a noodle. Thinking of noodles gave me the idea to partake in a lovely Chinese meal of Broccoli Chicken and Cashews! YUM!

LSM eventually wobbled back to the JUCY, grunted maybe three words and then went to sleep.

…..I really, really, really wanted to go on that helicopter flight……

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