Sometimes mother nature defines our travels. Sometimes she steps in, and makes it impossible for us to tick off #10 on the Bucket List. It is in these moments that we sometimes stumble upon an unknown beauty or destination. We are steered from our desired paths and gently pushed towards an off beaten track.
The Kiwi Experience bus arrived into Franz Josef on St Patricks day, eager to explore one of New Zealand’s must dos: hike the Franz Josef Glacier. We arrived mid afternoon at our accommodation for the night: Rainforest Retreat, lodge style accommodation in the heart of Franz Josef. For those of you yet to visit this misty town – Franz Josef sits within tall, snowy peaked mountains. Monsoon’s Bar at Rainforest Retreat through an amazing St Patrick’s Day party! We dressed in green, downed green tainted beers and scoffed our faces with all you can eat pizza.
The following day we were all booked on to the Ice Explorer – a helicopter ride that takes you to the top of Franz Josef Glacier before allowing you to hike for 3 hours through the ice. We exchanged horror stories from the night before as we made our way to the Glacier Centre for check in. Unfortunately due to the weather, the trip was cancelled. A few of us were disappointed at first, before deciding that whilst in the unique landscape of Franz Josef, we would make the most of the day.
There are many walks in Franz Josef that will lead you through hot pools, glacier lakes and rainforest tracks. The surrounds are absolutely stunning. Lake Matheson is not too far away and is known as New Zealand’s mirror lake! The water is so clear that when studying a photo of the lake, it is almost impossible to know which side of the photo is the actual lake, or the reflection.
In the afternoon most of the group went on a Sunset Kayak Tour with Glacier Country Kayaks. We kayaked through more of the region’s mirror lakes, through leafy canals and right into the middle of Lake Mapourika. Surrounding us were snow topped mountains and absolute tranquillity. The tour included free photos and a dinner at Monsoon’s Bar.
After a fantastic day we all went for a few more drinks (hair of the dog they say) at Monsoon’s Mexican Night – craziness accompanied with a Limbo contest!
The following morning our driver Cam rescheduled the departure time so that the group could give the Heli Hike another shot. As you can see by the photos, we got as far as getting the gear on and seeing the Helicopter that we would be travelling in. Mother Nature stepped in yet again, and the trip was cancelled.
Yet we had an amazing time in Franz Josef! My word of advice: if you ever feel let down by mother nature, just chat to the fellow backpackers that may surround you and you will find the beauty of travel yet again. As they say, travelling is not always about the destination, but about the journey and the people you meet along the way.
I was lucky enough to try the Franz Josef Valley walk a few years ago and it is most definitely a sight not to be missed! Today we arrived in Wanaka – absolutely stunning! I am hoping to win Trivia tonight before learning to fly a plane tomorrow – WOO!
Oh, and I forgot to mention, a fellow Kiwi Experience travel unfortunately captured video footage of St Patrick’s Day in Franz Josef! To see the video: