A Travellerspoint blog

Franz Josef

Glacier Climbing

semi-overcast 8 °C

1st April

After an eight hour coach journey from Queenstown I arrived. Staying in a four bed room that has its own bathroom and even a small kitchen area. I have it all to myself this night. Franz josef itself is very small. There are two main streets, one has all the motel and backpacker accommodation on it, and the other has the shops and bars. People don't stay here long, just a few days while they do one of the tours of the glacier. There are two glaciers in New Zealand. Fox glacier and this one, Franz Josef glacier. This one seems to be more popular to climb.

2nd April

Got up early for my full day glacier tour. Only needed to take food, water and camera, you're provided with everything else. Got a short bus ride to the glacier. To get to it we walked through some forest that opened out onto a large rocky area, the area where the glacier had been many years ago but is receding now. Though the glacier looks close from here it was still a 30-45 minute walk to reach the foot of it.

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The first challenging part was walking up a large rocky hill, the top of which we would be walking onto the glacier from. This was harder than I expected, though it probably didn't help that i hadn't had much for breakfast. At the top we strapped the crampons to our boots, the spiky things that grip the ice. There are a number of different trails up the ice and the guides decide which one to take us on, but they also have to stop now and again to carve out some parts of the trail to make it easier for people to walk on. This stop start routine was useful for catching your breath.

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It was about two and a half hours to reach the highest point we could get to in a day. From here we had lunch and then it was another two and a half hours to get back down. Along the way we went through ice caves and squeezed through narrow gaps between walls. The trail isn't straight, it takes you up, down and along the ridges and valleys in the ice.
It was an exhausting day but a good one. There are apparently only three places in the world where glaciers can exist in climates that are above zero degrees and surrounded by forest. New Zealand has two and Argentina has one... all facts come from tour guides, I haven't checked them. We were extremely lucky to get a day where it didn't rain once, they normally get some rain on every tour.
Slept well.

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Posted by Stefan.m 23:28 Archived in New Zealand

On the Road

A few photos

semi-overcast 17 °C

Just a few photos of the views while on the bus traveling around, and some of the places we've stopped at along the way.

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Posted by Stefan.m 03:22 Archived in New Zealand

Queenstown

sunny 19 °C

26th March

The bus from Dunedin was a late afternoon one, but most hostels i've been to seem happy to let you hang around and use the facilities, as long as you're out the room by 10am. Arrived late into Queenstown. The journey on the way here was much more scenic with large mountains and lakes, the views people come to see.

27th March

Queenstown is known as an adventure town, and there's plenty to do. The town itself is quite small but has plenty of shops, its easy to find your way around quickly and learn where everything is. The town is situated next to lake Wakatipu, one of the largest in the south island. As a result you get a good few of the surrounding mountains on the lake from town. The remarkable's are the main set of mountains surrounding the town.
It rained all day today, though it did stop late afternoon, enough for me to quickly walk around and take some photos. I managed to take 76 photos in 2 hours, one every couple of minutes, seems like this is going to be a regular occurrence with the views in New Zealand.

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28th March

Today the weather is much better, bright sun and blue sky's, though strangely still cold enough to wear jeans and a jacket, or maybe that's just me. Got a bus this morning for a sightseeing tour of Queenstown and the surrounding area. Though it wasn't a normal New Zealand bus, it was a red double decker London bus. We went to a few look out points to take photos, as well as the AJ Hackett site where they do bungy jumping. Got to see a few people jump, it doesn't look as bad after watching people do it, but would still think twice before doing it. The tour went on to Arrow town, an old mining town, Queenstown was once famous for its gold mining. After a few more sites the tour ended in the afternoon, so I looked around town... took more photos.

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29th March

Got up early for a tour to Milford Sound, an area in the south declared a 'must see'. Took a long coach journey to Te Anau before moving on to Milford. Great views along the way, even if I did sleep for part of it. Milford sound is a national park area. This area of land was carved out by glaciers and as a result is surrounded by spectacular snow capped mountains and valleys. After driving through the valleys we boarded a boat for a two hour cruise along Milford, the body of water that leads out to the sea. The mountains are full of rivers which run down the cliffs as waterfalls, a few of which the boat went through. Was also meant to be a few dolphins around but we didn't see any, did see a couple sun bathing seals though. After another picturesque drive through the valleys it was a long journey back to Queenstown, arriving late evening.

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30th March

Got up early to extend my booking at the hostel. At the same time I enquired about the availability of doing a skydive. Its something i'd considered but hadn't got round to booking. The person at reception called the company and told me there was a space left and that I could go in 40 minutes! I accepted, thinking it would be better to book and do it without having time to worry about it. I quickly got ready and made my way down the street to the shop where they explain what's going to happen and ask you to sign your life away.

A few of us got taken to a place just outside Queenstown consisting of just a couple of buildings and a few small planes. I was due to jump in the second group so waited around and watched the first group coming down.

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It was then my turn to get a jump suit, hat and goggles. Met the instructor I was going to be strapped to as well as the camera man who was going to be filming me and taking photos. After a few instructions we all piled into the plane, all sitting on the floor up against each other. As we went up the instructor pointed out a few landmarks, not that I was worried about the view.
We eventually reached 12,000 feet. A couple of people in front of me shuffled forward and I watched as they jumped out. It was soon my turn, I sat on the edge with my feet hanging out, arms holding the straps and face up. Before I had a chance to consider what an earth I was doing the instructor pushed us out... safe to say that was pretty scary. From what I vaguely remember, inbetween the fear, we were free falling for around 45 seconds. The feeling of falling that fast was terrifying, though I didn't really notice the ground getting closer as we were advised to always look up... especially for photos. I'm sure I tried to shout, but nothing came out.

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After a few photos the camera man waved to us, this confused me, until the parachute opened and we shot upwards, slightly unexpectedly... for me anyway. Once the parachute was open we calmly drifted down to the airfield. Its a strange feeling, like you're floating, until the instructor suddenly pulled to one side. After a smoothish landing it was all over. I think I did pretty well considering my dislike of heights and falling. Though in most of the photos the instructor is smiling and looking at the camera while I just look terrified. Still, a good experience.

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Collected the photos, video and certificate and went back to the hostel. Sat down for a bit.

31th March

Didn't have much planned for today as its already been an expensive week. Finally got a hair cut and bought some new sunglasses as mine unfortunately broke. Just got some other stuff booked. Off tomorrow to Franz Josef for a glacier walk/tour.

Posted by Stefan.m 02:57 Archived in New Zealand

Dunedin

semi-overcast 16 °C

22nd March - 25th March

Haven't updated the blog for a while, hopefully haven't forgotten anything.

Arrived in the afternoon after my first of many bus journeys around New Zealand. Travelling down the coast from Christchurch we went past mainly farmland, very green straight open roads. But the best views were far away in the distance.
Got checked in at the hostel and went for a short look around. Dunedin was founded by Scottish immigrants and is meant to show Scottish influences, don't know if this is true as i've never been to Scotland. The buildings though are very extravagant, especially the train station (pictured below).

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Unfortunately it seems I picked up something in Christchurch and haven't been feeling too well. Probably the water. As a result I spent the next few days in bed. Got out a couple of times to look around, but there isn't much to do. Dunedin is mainly a student town, with possibly one of New Zealand's largest universities (haven't checked). City looks fairly nice though, and the hostel was a nice place to be stuck in for a few days. Delayed my trip to Queenstown, decided to wait out the illness here. Once again, as in Australia, the population of Germans seems to out number all other nationalities, their all over the pacific! Yet no one i've spoke to seems to know why there's so many.

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Posted by Stefan.m 01:55 Archived in New Zealand

Christchurch

The start of New Zealand

semi-overcast 16 °C

20th March

Had a 4 hour 20 minute flight from Cairns to Auckland, and then a couple hours there till the next connecting flight. Entering New Zealand they were just as strict as Australia, possibly more so. I declared that I had some food with me, a lunch I had made up in Cairns before leaving to use up left over food. As a result I had to wait in a queue for 30 minutes so they could barely look at my ham sandwich and decide it needed to thrown away. Still not sure how a ham sandwich is harmful to the country. Had to walk to the domestic terminal and go through security again for the next flight.

From Auckland to Christchurch was only 1 hour 20 minutes, which was good as I was sat next to a man that smelt funny and in front of a crying baby. Arrived in Christchurch just after 10pm and got a pre-booked bus to the hostel i'm staying at. On the way there you could see the damage the earth quake had caused. The driver explained that that afternoon just before my flight arrived the city had another quake, a 5.1 aftershock. People here still seem afraid and concerned.

21th March

The hostel and surrounding houses have only recently had their water and electricity back on and you still have to boil water as its not safe to drink. The hostel does sell fairly cheap bottled water though. The entire city centre is cordoned off as its too badly damaged and alot of rebuilding is going on. The rest of the area is full of police with loads of police cars lining the streets, while military personnel guard the road blocks into the city. There's still a lot of clearing up going on. Houses surrounding the city have been marked with different colour spray painted signs indicating the severity of their damage. Most of them are too badly damaged and are fenced off, waiting to be demolished. The roads are also damaged, their much more bumpy now and in some you can see the cracks and bulges.

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The parts of Christchurch I have briefly seen seem very English, the weather too has also been more English. It was overcast this morning but when the sun did come out it was still a bit chilly, nothing like the constantly humid Australia.
Tomorrow I will be taking a bus down to Dunedin, a place that looks fairly similar, in photos atleast.

Posted by Stefan.m 21:47 Archived in New Zealand

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