Tag Archives: Franz Josef

The Camping Chronicles

DISCLAIMER: No photos in this post due to rubbish wifi. Apologies.

After Abel Tasman, we continued our camping extravaganza with a trip to Westport. We only really went to Westport on the way to the glaciers because I had a strop and told Tom that I wasn’t happy doing a ten hour coach journey on a vehicle with no toilet.

So we jumped off the bus at Westport. It was a town that looked a bit like the Wild West. The best thing about Westport is that you don’t need to look before crossing the road because there’s NO ONE THERE. We plodded to our campsite, or rather, “holiday park,” which was a bit like redneck America. Oh well. There was a good barbeque area at least, so Tom was pleased. The weather was fine on the first night, but I didn’t sleep anyway. Thanks body.

We “awoke” to rain. Rain rain rain. Rain that lasted all day. As there was nothing to do in the town, we stayed put and dry in the TV room and had an internet day. By the time it came to going to bed, it had been raining none stop for well over twelve hours and showed no sign of stopping. We leapt over the puddles around our tent and tentatively stuck our heads through the door flap. It looked rather the same as outside; puddles everywhere, but with the addition of water running down the walls. Luckily we’d had the foresight to keep our valuables with us, so they were all okay, but everything else was pretty drenched. We tried to mop up the damage for a while, then decided it was hopeless, and went to see the manager to see if they had any cabins available that we could stay in.

They were all full, but the kind woman said “if it gets really bad, just go and sleep in the TV room.” We went back to the tent, and after a few minutes of discussing what constituted “really bad,” we made the decision to go inside. Everyone else on the site was sleeping in vans/cabins/their cars, except for a kiwi teenager, who joined our little sleepover. I muttered to Tom “if he is a snorer, I’ll kill him.” And guess what… He snored.

The next day, we were more than happy to pack away our completely sodden tent, and get back on the bus. Seven hours later (I caught up on a lot of sleep on board,) we arrived at the campsite by Franz Josef Glacier. We erected (hehe) the tent and left it out to dry, and then walked half an hour into town to go to the supermarket for some supplies. When we returned, we did some washing, which was a relief as I’d been in the same clothes for THREE DAYS and then went to bed.

That night was bloody perishing! I couldn’t sleep for the cold, any body part that came loose of our shared sleeping bag immediately went numb. Anyway. Let’s just say that I still wasn’t a camping convert. I was delighted to watch the sun come up through the tent wall, what a relief. We got booted up and headed out to do the Franz Josef Glacier valley walk.

For most people visiting New Zealand, this is 1.5hour round trip, but as we had to walk at least an hour to get to the carpark where the walk started, it was more of a day trip. We were quickly beginning to realise that we are in a big minority travelling by bus and foot. When we check in at most places, they ask for your car registration and then look at you like you’ve got two heads when you say you don’t have one. That sounds like a rant, but I actually really enjoyed extending the walk and taking more time to look at the beautiful scenery.

The mountains are huge, and jungle covered. We really enjoyed the walk to the carpark through the rainforest, listening to the crazy birdsong. I sometimes feel like I’m at home in the lakes, but then I see some kind of crazy tree that I’ve never seen before, or I’m stopped in my tracks transfixed by a weird bird. The path to the glacier was rocky, but rewarding when we got to the top. Seeing a glacier that is retreating feels special. I know that if I return to New Zealand it won’t look the same, or might not even be there at all.

In the afternoon we went to the “Glacier Hot Pools,” which we’d managed to book cheaply online. The three pools of different temperatures felt great after a long day’s walk, and it was a really relaxing treat! We returned to our campsite tired, and ready for a rest. Having hired some wool blankets I was feeling more positive, but alas, still frozen, so no sleep. Thank god for coffee!!

The next day we went on a kayak trip across Lake Mapourika at the base of the glacier. In doing this, we realised how lucky we’ve been having grown up in the Lake District or spending a lot of time in the lochs of Scotland. The lake seemed a bit small and poxy compared to Windermere/ Loch Goil. Tom was in charge of steering the two man canoe, and took great pleasure in deliberately crashing us into the other members of the group and then pretending to apologise profusely, which was absolutely hilarious at first but then got a bit awkward when people were getting pissed off with us. At one point we hit the side of a German couple and steered them completely the wrong way and nearly beached them. I was laughing so much, and it only got funnier the more pissed off they got. We saw a rare white heron, which was cool. Then we went on this little detour down a river track. When we had to turn to go back the way we came, we embarked on an Austin Powers style 30 point turn whilst everyone waited for us. I don’t think we were very popular…

We got a lift back to the town and waited for the bus. It was late. Tom checked his phone to discover we had a text: the bus was delayed due to a mechanical issue and would be an hour and 45 mins late. Bummer. Whilst we waited we enjoyed using the most hilarious public toilets: you press a button to open the door and then a recorded voice proclaims “welcome to the toilet! Door will automatically open in ten minutes!” and then some light piano jazz started playing. I’m glad there was a toilet in there because I probably would have wet myself laughing if there wasn’t.

We waited and waited for the bus, and then a bloke in an official looking uniform jumped out of his car saying “hey, are you heading to Fox Glacier? Need a ride?” – turns out he was a bus driver from another company, who when heading home after his shift always heads past the bus stop to see if anyone needs a lift. He was so kind, and dropped us directly at the campsite, which was a massive help. Everyone we’ve come across in New Zealand has been so friendly to us with our huge backpacks. 🙂

We pitched the tent, and then went to hire some kind of blanket from reception and were given a double duvet each! I was in heaven and actually slept well for the first time in over a week. It was so nice to finally be warm enough! Waking refreshed, we headed off to do the valley walk at Fox Glacier.

More stunning scenery that almost made it impossible to not look longingly after the people driving to the car park at the beginning of the walk. Fox Glacier had fewer people, and was actually even more impressive than Franz Josef. The final ascent was steep, and covered with warning signs saying “no stopping” due to the hazard of rockfalls. After our picnic at the top, we began the descent and came across a family surrounding the grandma, who had fallen and cut her head open. There was so much blood everywhere, all down her face and top. Luckily she was conscious! Tom legged it back up the hill, to where we’d seen a guide and sent her down to help. We then carried on our way because there wasn’t much we could do to help. Seeing the accident shook me up a bit. You always forget that an easy-seeming walk is often more dangerous than it looks, and we’re only flesh and blood after all. We returned to the campsite and watched Harry Potter on the telly, and ate chocolate which cheered me up!

So that was me done, I’d seen some of the most beautiful sights ever, survived six nights in a row of camping, and found myself almost looking forward to a dorm room!

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