We arrived via our trusty InterCity bus in the very small village of Franz Josef. It is essentially 2 streets, one road with bars, restaurants, cafés, a supermarket and travel agents (probably 15 commercial places in total) and the other parallel street with the same number of small hostels/hotels. It is famous for glaciers, site-seeing of the southern alps, great walking and its own micro-climate. It is also famous for the fact that the main Franz Josef glacier shouldn’t exist. It is, according to experts, in an area of the world that is too warm (there is a rain forest right next to the glacier), at an altitude that is too low and not a high enough latitude.
It wasn’t a very auspicious start. The rain that we’ve been luckily avoiding all holiday so far was lashing down when we arrived in the early evening. There was no view, no chance of walking and definitely no chance of getting air transport to see the famous southern alps. This was exactly the experience of a few friends had when they visited here, but, we have 2 full days, so we may get lucky with the weather.
The next morning everything was transformed. Clear blue skies, the sun getting the mercury unto 23c and suddenly the whole town was buzzing. Literally buzzing, with helicopters that had not operated for the past 4 days, ice cream sellers appearing from nowhere and a view of misty mountains or snow capped peaks in every direction.
We decided to take a walk to the glacier area. We walked for an hour and a half from our hotel over big rivers, small streams, through the beautiful rain forest with trees coated in a shagpile carpet worth of moss to finally arrive at the main glacier car park – yes, glaciers have car parks! A short further walk gave us glacier and snow peaked mountain views reflected in clear glacier lakes with only the helicopters buzzing taking away the absolute serenity. I’ll now let the photos do the talking of our day, but next up, will Chloe go for a helicopter tour? Answer is coming up on our next post….