On this rainy Sunday, let’s talk about another wet land: the glaciers of New Zealand! Franz Joseph was on top of our Must See list as we started in NZ. My brother had contacted me a few days prior to our arrival in the glaciers zone to say happy birthday of course but also to tell me he wanted to offer me a sky dive experience… What better place to do it than in the glaciers?? Don’t get too exited, it did not happen… First, my mad foot needed to be cured ASAP. 15 days of antibiotics and a traumatizing egg bursting later, all that was left of the poisonous spider was an enormous scar, still visible as of today. Second, the impossible weather. Foggy, raining and windy, what was the point?? Third, probably my lack of confidence in my ability to jump from a plane…
Both time I went to Franz Joseph I first had a stop in Hokitika. It is only after wandering in the ‘city’ the second time around that I had to admit I had already been there, once, when the Intercity bus took a two hours break… Lonely Planet says it is a nice place, worth to spend one or two nights, and that’s about the only thing I’ve been mad at them about. Because Hokitika may have plenty to offer, I absolutly hated it. Can’t get anymore boring, wondering in the city on a Monday with everything closed. Sunset viewpoint yes, but not enough to make it a stop! We were staying at a lovely hostel though,Birdsong Backpacker. We had one of the private rooms, that actually consisted of two rooms and a bathroom. The common area is fully opened on the coast with a very nice kitchen, there is a balcony bif enough to have a meal or read a book in the sun.
So as I’ve mentionned before, the first morning we woke up in the glaciers it was raining a bit… To say the least… Very foggy on top of it. We only had one day and two nights planned in Franz Joseph so we had no choice but to go for it anyway… The man from the hostel told us ‘when it rains, the glaciers is blue’, so why not? We were with that French girl then, that we met back in Punakaiki, Laurence, that had the same itinerary as us up to that point. We took all our strength to get in the shuttle that was to take us to the glacier site, armed with the huge umbrellas the hostel had landed us. Downpours of rain by the time we arrived, so much fog we couldn’t see anything. Did not matter, we did the hike as far as it is allowed, and yet, we did not see the glaciers… However, we met a group of 3 guys, the only ones on the trail. One English man that had been travelling for 8 years in a row, one crazy german guy, Oscar, who had spent the past 6 months in a tent , the only human being that I’ve met that claims to actually have seen a wild kiwi one night he was camping in the woods, and A., the cutest English man I had the opportunity to meet! They stayed at our hostel then and it is one of the best nights we had on the trip! That’s when I started to understand how amazing it is to meet people on the road, people you are going to share your entire life story and all your dreams with for just one night, wake up the next day and leave without a word of goodbye and later realize you don’t even know there names. These nameless people are the ones I remember the best. And Oscar and his rainbow world of course…
We were staying at the Chateau Backpackers, hostel that we only picked because of its name. Very cheap, free soup, what more could we ask for? The dorms were very basics, although we did have a girls only dorm, but it is one of those hostels were you just feel at home. Very homelike kitchen where they serve free soup everynight, they also have a ounge room with a huge flat TV screen and tons of DVD to borrow for free. Of course we watched the Lord of the Rings, with some free pop corn offered by the hostel for those who want to spend some time watching movies. There is a room downstairs that I called the Fire Room, with obsviously a fire and stuff to hang your wet clothes, and sofas to have a read while warming up. By the time we arrived that night after the hike in the rain, this room was unapprochable because of the horrendous smell of wet dirty socks… The manager is lovely, there is a hot tub, there is nothing wrong I can really say about that place. Just go and try it for yourself!
But, I took a detour by the glaciers once again when my mom came to visit, I would have hated to stay on a failure like that… The glaciers are, I find, a very unusual sight in the rest of New Zealand. I still don’t really understand what they are doing there, but what I know is that they are slowly disappearing. They say slowly but I was astouned by it actually, I think the glaciers decrease by something like 20 meters each year.
One more thing about Franz Josef: Picnics Bakery.