Franz Josef is a small town in the West Coast region of the South Island of New Zealand. The glacier on the top of the mountain is named Franz Josef.
This is where we spent the money and decided to go on the famous “heli hike”. The heli hike is a combination of a helicopter ride to a glacier at the top of the mountain and then hiking the glacier itself.
The company provides the snow pants, jacket, hat, mittens, shoes (including ice bracket attachments) and carry on bag, all we needed to bring was snacks and a camera. Admission to the Franz Josef hot springs is included in the heli hike. If the hot springs were in a natural environment I wouldn’t have a problem, but the hot springs here are enclosed and in a pool setting. There is something that really bothers me mentally about sitting in jacuzzis. It could be from all the years of living in Las Vegas and seeing people drink alcohol all day and never leave the pool to use the bathroom. I could just be paranoid. Either way my phobia kept me from using the hot springs here.
This was by far the most extraordinary thing I’ve done in my lifetime. The helicopter ride over the mountains, valleys and rivers could have been a tour in itself. The ride was literally 4-5 minutes before we landed on top of a glacier on the ice.
After putting the spike attachments on the shoes while sitting on ice, we started the three hour hike. The guide led the way as we followed by digging our spikes in the ice to get a strong footing. The glacier from above looks like a maze but hiking in the glacier we were sometimes sandwiched in between twenty foot walls of ice. Some parts of the glacier look dirty but this is the dark rock mountain that has been ground to dust from the ice.
Unfortunately the glacier has been melting away over the decades and parts of the mountain are completely ice free. It’s sad to see knowing this was once covered in ice.
The next stop on this journey is Greymouth. This is a two and a half hour drive from Franz Josef with lots of cool stops along the way. It’s almost impossible to drive direct to the next city without pulling over to walk a trail or stopping to see a beautiful lake, river or creek. We have seen so many extraordinary natural things, sometimes I feel guilty when I don’t take a picture and just look. I never thought I would see the day where I got use to seeing so much beauty.