Wednesday, 23 November 2011

New Zealand Tour, 21st September 2011. Franz Josef Glacier.

The plan today was to get on to the Glacier in the morning and then drive up The West Coast in the afternoon. We had seen a Heli Hike advertised with The Helicopter Line and they had a half day tour leaving at 09:30.  It was an expensive option at NZ$395.00 each, but due to time constraints we decided to go for this tour three hour tour so we would be finished at 12:30.
 We arrived at the office on the corner of Cook Flat Road and Highway 6 on time and having been weighed on scales were led across the road to a converted container, (we saw containers used for every thing in New Zealand) where we were fitted out with waterproof trousers, coats, socks, walking books and ice crampons. This last item worried me, why did I need crampons to fly up to look at a Glacier? The pilot advised us where to sit in the helicopter and then it was a short flight to the top of the Glacier. On the ice, our guide briefed us about  walking on the glacier, advising us what to do and what not to do, it was at this point that I realised this was not just a helicopter trip up, a quick look round then helicopter ride down, but that this was a walking tour on the glacier itself. The crampons would be in full use, and indeed they were. Our guide spent a full three hours guiding us through ice caves, pinnacles and formations. Showing us the extraordinary colours of the ice, and best of all hearing the ice creak and groan as it cut through the rock. It was an amazing experience, and our guide was outstanding.

Despite my trepidation, I soon got the hang of walking with the crampons on and really enjoyed myself. The trip took well over 4 hours in total so it was rather later that I had planned when we left the small township of Franz Josef bound for Greymouth.
We did drive down to Okarito as the lagoon here is the largest unmodified wetland in New Zealand and it is famous for its White Heron, the lagoon was large and we did not have time to do this destination justice. This was the same for the small town of Hokitika where we filled up with petrol. We arrived at Greymouth late in the evening and checked into The Greymouth Seaside top 10 Holiday Park, the location of this park was good, it is on a lovely stretch of beach facing the Tasman Sea. The camp has mixed accommodation, from simple camp sites for tents & campervans, cabins, studio units, and small apartments. There was a jumping pillow, playground, large TV room (with sky) BBQ, kitchen, laundry and a games room. As with all accommodation in New Zealand we were asked what kind of milk we wanted upon check in, and given a pint full fat or low fat milk.  Just another good thing about this lovley country.