Before the mini bus left at 8:15 in the morning, I got to see Wanaka on a clear day with the sun freshly risen over the mountains spotlighting a most euphoric sight courtesy of Mother Nature. On the drive, I nodded off to sleep while trying to open an eye at a time at the mountains, forest, and coastline around me. I got into Franz Josef without a hostel and unaware of what to see with the exception of Franz Josef Glacier, the main draw of most tourists and passersby. Quickly, a German guy and I hit off and we went around town getting tourist information and getting the same hostel. The hostel hosts were so welcoming, really giving off that hospitable Kiwi vibe. The manager of the hostel offered to drive us to the car park near the Glacier during her break, which we obviously accepted. Past the murky rapids that were formed by the glacier and surrounding snow-capped peaks, the road turned and snuck through the forest to our destination. After thanking our gracious host we began the easy walk to the base of the glacier. If people are willing to pay the hefty fee, helicopters will touch down on the glacier and let the wealthy walk on the immense chunk of ice. The two of us talked about our travels and the similarities/differences between our two countries. He has been on a ten month trip that started off in California, took him through a great deal of South America, and now New Zealand. His trip had been three years in the making for saving that almighty capital. We bonded quite quickly and got past a lot of the small talk that can become a bore after traveling awhile. As we centimetered closer to the Glacier (See what I did there? I am so clever), I began to see the ice in all its glory. The opaque blue became quite noticeable while mixed in with the sharp white crystals that jutted out of the core of the ice. From what I heard, the glacier keeps its shape as the lower extremity of the ice melts away into the river below while the uppermost portion regains its length with the rain and cold temperatures found at that altitude. The Glacier was quite the spectacle and well worth the visit. We walked some other random hikes before ending up back at the town centre to get food to make a halfway decent meal. He opted for Thai/Asian which worked for me as long as I could have a bit of meat after the endless onslaught of chickpeas. Everything went smoothly seasoning the dish until we arrived at the laborious rice noodles. The noodles came rapped tightly, wound in a string kind of like a bushel found on a farm. The noodles were just as thick and stubborn as hay. We needed to break them apart, so I came up with the bright idea to get a saw-like knife to jaggedly cut through its center. After countless swipes, the knife found the other side. The meal was quite delicious and spicy and washed down nicely by a few Kiwi beers. After that, we needed to get moving if we hoped to complete the tunnel walk that promised glowworms along the way. On the edge of the path in near complete darkness, I found the tiny blue lights that I first saw in Te Anau. While not as dense as in the cave, I could do worse as far as things to do on a random…I would say a specific day but I have lost track of time. The tunnel itself was a creepy stream filled and seemingly endless jaunt into the rock. Since I still needed to do some planning for tomorrow as far as deciding whether I found stay in Franz another day or move north, I told him we had to go back. After passing the series of hungry glowworms waiting patiently and brightly, the path opened up near the town centre. Looking up, we could see a star-filled sky undisturbed by city lights. The sight reminded me of a family trip to Colorado during which we sat in a hot tub in a rented house at night in the mountains far away from the unfiltered light of the city. The sky was nearly just as bright and awe inspiring. The night ended with me opting to stay another night while my German friend would be continuing on without me.
Middle Earth Day 11: Franz Josef Glacier