Seeing as we didn’t manage to go for a glacier walk while we were in Iceland, Wenkai’s dad suggested that we add it into our New Zealand schedule.
We did some simple googling prior to the trip and realised that glacier walks required a helicopter ride, which was a bit over our budget. In the end, we settled on a walk to the foot of the glacier.
We’d seen that it was a four-hour drive from Wanaka, where we were staying. I don’t think we were quite prepared for how long the journey actually was, so handy tip if you’re travelling far for something scheduled, leave at least 45 minutes in advance because sometimes road conditions may also slow you down!
But we made it. Just in time. Our guide, Jessica, was really friendly and provided us with a lot of background and information on the place we were visiting. We’d thought it was just the foot of a glacier we were visiting - turns out that there was so much more.
What’s unique about the Franz Josef glacier is essentially its existence - it’s close to both a rainforest (yes, you read that correctly) and the ocean. It was the rainforest we tracked through before coming out onto the rocky path where the glacier once existed hundreds of years ago. After every few metres, there were sign posts on where the glacier last was. It was obvious how much it had shrank due to climate change.
Jessica pointed out a large rock that were roughly the size of two trucks in the distance. ‘Some of the first people who walked on this glacier climbed onto that rock, then went down the other side to land on top of the glacier,’ she told us. It sounded fun. All that laid around that large rock now were dry, dusty rock.
She also showed us how the red stuff covering some rocks we could see were actually indicators of when the glacier was last seen around the area. These ‘green algae’ (that were red in colour) would be the first to appear in spots where the glacier stopped forming. After that came small shrubs, then small trees. I listened in fascination, never having known that what I’d have always photograph as “pretty textures” would have such a practical use.
After the hike, we went for dinner at a nearby restaurant called Alice May. The food was good; would recommend it if you happen to be around that area. We then made another 4-hour drive back, the most of it being in the dark and trying not to run over both live and dead possums or other roadkills.