We drove along the lush, windy road, vaguely aware that there were greater forces above us, but it wasn’t until the rain stopped and the clouds split that we had our first glace of the snow-capped mountains.
Taking advantage of this gap in the weather, we joined a helicopter tour to the top of the mountain. Both thrilling and exhilarating, it was the best way to see the glacier and experience the raw mountain. Offering access that isn’t possible approaching by foot, our pilot settled on top of the soft snow long enough for us to throw a snowball and create an ice angel. It felt as if we have visited the moon. Ten minutes previously we were wandering through green bush. Now we were in the clouds surrounded by a glistening while landscape.
Franz Josef is a thrill-seekers paradise, but it doesn’t necessarily have to be fast and furious. With two young children in tow we joined a kayak group and paddled the black glacial waters in search of white herons. On one day the lake can reflect the mountains like a perfect mirror. On others it’s black, blustery and threatening.
The changing scenery and weather is as much a part of New Zealand travel as the adventure sports.
Things to do:
· Helicopter Glacier Tours: Alpine Adventures, www.scenic-flights.co.nz
· Kayaking: we joined Glacier Country Kayaks www.glacierkayaks.com
· Glacier hot pools: www.glacierhotpools.co.nz
· Wild life:
o West Coast Wildlife Centre: see kiwis at this indoor centre. www.wildkiwi.co.nz
o White Heron Sanctuary Tours: www.whiteherontours.co.nz
· Culture: Maori Cultural Experience by Puawai: a new live performance of traditional songs and dance. Be prepared for some participation and fun. www.maoriculturalcentre.co.nz
Where to stay:
· In the countryside: Glenfern villas are just 6km from Franz Josef but offers a peaceful retreat with beautiful views and alpacas to feed. www.glenfern.co.nz
· In town: 58 on Cron motel is within walking distance of Franz Josef’s restaurants and bars. www.58oncron.co.nz