A Travellerspoint blog

walking in the clouds

Walking up Alex Knob Track above Frans Josef glacier

rain 18 °C
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Day 16

Another top if not wet, day at Frans Josef. We decided we had had enough of the madding crowds and headed somewhere where the only the hardened tourists hung out, namely 1295 metres above the glacier without the aid of a chopper.

So up Alex Knob Track, I know hardly a romantic title, which consisted of 1100m of ascent up one of the best maintained tracks up a hill I have ever been on. There was hardly a cloud in the sky when we got up but that soon changed once we put our boots on. I went to the reception at the campervan park to say where we were going, safety first, and they did give me a strange look. In fact she did not really know what I was talking about which is a surprise as it is the only long distance track around here. You can tell we are not on a campsite with a big walking community such as back home in the highlands.

The weather did close in but the track was so clearly defined that we carried on regardless. Like I said in previous blogs, the tropical rainforest covers the whole mountain so apart from a few quick lookouts you hardly know where you are going. Near the top the vegetation changes dramatically into short alpine plants and the views then open up. Well at least the would normally if we not enclosed in cloud. By this time the legs were feeling it, due to our trek on the ice yesterday, but we had to pretend we were hardened mountaineers as two German tourists were on the top as well. We were socked by then but for a brief moment as if on demand, the clouds cleared and we got our shot of the top of the glacier, well maybe about 400 truth be told. Out of this world it truly was and well worth the trek. On a clear day there must be no better view around here and if anyone has the fortune to be in Frans Josef on a clear day, forget paying all the money for a 20 minute chopper ride and get your boots on.

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I am now sitting on the campsite outside with the top of the glacier in front of me as the weather has gone beautiful, typical. Oh well we got our shot.

So tomorrow we leave Frans Josef to head on down to Wanaka for a few days before Max and Paddy have to hang up the driving gloves in Queenstown on Wednesday.

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Comedy moment of the day: Telling the campsite woman that we were going up Alex’s Knob Track and her asking me to spell the second word just as a old woman walks into the office to ask for some change for the laundry. Trying to spell it with a straight face was most difficult but I did manage to resist the obvious and childish smart remarks that I would normally come out with.

Off to Wanaka and hopefully better internet access, only 2 computers here so long queues

Posted by karlg598 22:47 Archived in New Zealand Comments (1)

I bought the ice, where is the G and T

cool dudes on Frans Josef Glacier

rain 15 °C
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Day 15

It is becoming difficult to find the words to keep describing what we see everyday without doing the views justice. A full day spent on the Glacier at Frans Josef is no exception. The shear size makes you feel how insignificant we all really are.

So early start, had to set alarm for the first time, and then we did the 15 minute walk into town trying to do our bit for the planet, seeing as we were going to see a load of retreating ice. We went with Frans Josef guided glacial walks and it was a very slick operation. The getting kitted up took some time mainly due to the fact that there was 2 bus loads of us. As an aside this did not lessen the day but it did feel like a bit of a production line which lost that personal touch we found at Waitomo Caves with a small group.
Anyway with regulation pit boots, crampons, hat, etc we all headed off to the bus. This tour being a bit cheaper meant that majority of folk were backpackers, so we felt slightly old, but we knew we would make up for that with our extensive ice knowledge. Honest. Off to the nose of the glacier and what a beast she is.

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Once we had split into smaller groups of 8 with a guide each things got good. On went the crampons and up the ice we went, trying to follow in the steps the guide had cut with what can only be described as an ice axe for giants. It just fantastic and we managed to get all the way up to the massive crevasses at the top half of the glacier. The size of the cracks were massive and we just cut steps and walked on down them, brilliant.

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That is me in a crack.

After a spot of lunch the guide gave us the spiel about the place. The oldest ice was only 80 years old which was because it flowed so quickly, 1m per day. And here is one for Jeremy Clarkson, because of global warming more moisture from the Tasman sea gets absorbed into the air which falls as snow so means it is advancing. This was the main reason why later on that night we went for a curry in town and decided to drive the campervan rather than walk. This in now way had anything to do with the fact that we are old gits and did not have the energy to walk to 2 km to the Indian!!!!

So all in all a top day. Again the photos do not do it justice but I have put a few on anyway.

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The 2 numpties

Comedy moment of the day: Me and Julian had our own waterproofs which were red the same colour as the instructors. We did stick out like sore thumbs with everyone else in the blue waterproofs. Anyway when we started walking a group of Scandinavian guys asked us both how long we had been guiding on the Glaciers and where were we trained. Naturally I told the truth, that I learnt all about glacial walking when I was in the army training for the SAS, much to Julian’s amusement

Posted by karlg598 00:36 Archived in New Zealand Tagged ecotourism Comments (1)

It is just round the corner

Ice anybody

sunny 18 °C
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Day 14

We moved off early today out of Greymouth and headed further south 2 ½ hours drive to Franz Josef. All I can say is what a place. Famous for its glacier, which means mountains, and the scenery is simply jaw dropping. Living on the west coast of Scotland I am use to big mountains but this is a whole different level. No photo can do justice to the massive intimidating peaks covered in forest with knife edge ridges in between.
We parked up at our next Top 10 campsite and again we can not find anything to complain about. Just perfect with all the facilities and welcome we have come to expect from Top 10. So hooked up off we set into town for a light afternoon walk. Trouble is we got to other side of town and could see the glacier poking out of the trees in the distance. Just a bit further, Julian said, so off we go like a kid trying not to peak while playing hide and seek and are enticed to keep going. We did get to the viewing car park which was still far away from the edge of the Glacier, but common sense prevailed and we turned back for the campsite, making a light stroll turn into a 14 Km hike. Some great shots though and a good precursor to tomorrows activity as we have booked an all day guided tour on the ice with crampons and ice axes.

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Frans Josef itself is a single street town based solely on tourism. It is much better than Greymouth and has a nice feel about it, although the Coach Party Holiday traffic does make it a little noisy and roads busier than we would like. Maybe because the glacier is so accessible it makes it a Mecca for those who want to jump out of the bus, take a few snaps and say they have been there. Still we like the place so much we have booked for 3 nights. The plan is to do the Glacier tomorrow then walk the Alex Knob, I kid you not, track which takes us up to 1000m high above the ice, on the next day. So off for an early night as we have 2 big days ahead of us.

Comedy moment of the day: Watching a woman drop all her plates on the floor that she was washing up in the communal kitchen and dinning area. You should have seen the people jump.

Posted by karlg598 00:21 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Flying pancakes

driving from Picton to Greymouth

rain 15 °C
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Day 13

Got up this morning to a miserable day. The plan was to spend a bit more time in Picton because we liked it so much but knowing we had a long drive ahead of us, because we have booked to be at Franz Josef for a day on a glacier on the 8th, we decided to spend the day driving in the rain.

We left Picton on what must be the bendiest road in the world with the breakfast washing up bouncing around the cabin. Obviously this did get on my nerves so when we pulled over we had to do the washing up to minimise the rattles and prevent me going insane. Once back on the coast the sky cleared and rewarded us with some stunning views with a rugged coastline with large surf beaches on our right and the imposing Paparoa Mountain range on our left.

Just down from Punakaiki is a series of limestone features called Pancake Rocks, named because they look like pancakes pilled on top of each other. It was worth the 30 minutes to stroll around the boardwalks and the views were great but it was a bit busy with bus trips and campervaners when we were there.

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So pulling into Greymouth for our next Top 10 camper night. We did get the impression that Greymouth has that UK coastal resort feel to it, with tacky run down attractions that is good for the kids for one day. There are lots of caving adventures to be had but we were a bit caved in by now so decided to book for one night and move on tomorrow. The beach was nice and hearing the sea from the camper reminded me I was on holiday. Tommorrow we are off to Franz Josef and then the adrenalin junkies will be getting the fix as most of the driving will be done and we can start scaring ourselves whittless again.

Comedy moment of the day: me nearly dropping the dinner I was cooking in the floor as a passenger plane came from nowhere and flew right over the bus. We later found out that the campsite is in fact at the bottom of Greymouth small airport.

Posted by karlg598 00:51 Archived in New Zealand Tagged luxury_travel Comments (1)

Picting our way south

travelling from the north island to the south island

semi-overcast 22 °C
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Day 11

Long day in the van but it has to be said not as long as we thought because the roads are fantastic. There is simple no body on them, which is not a real surprise as not many people live here. So the trip from Taupo to Wellington was uneventful. We did stop off at Bulls which is this little town in the middle of nowhere and popped in a old bakery run by a very nice Kiwi guy who was, once again, very friendly and chatty. It is a different world.

So Wellington. Found the campsite and then took the bus into town and we both give the city a thumbs up. So much going on, clean, nice architecture. We had a meal on the front while watching all the fitness freaks jog around the harbour and the people watching was fascinating. Could have spent a lot more time there. The bus back to the campsite was funny as it was late so the driver tried to make the time up by driving like Michael Schumacher. It was like being in a washing machine. Then he dropped us off on the other side of the river and told us we could use the old cronky bridge that said “out of order” on it. Apparently “she be alright” which is Kiwi for it might be ok but I have never sent a tourist over it to try it out yet!!!!

Day 12

After constant rain all night we awoke to a windy but beautiful morning for our sail to the South Island and Picton. Once stocked up with fuel and provisions (which was comedy in itself), we got on the ferry and were away. 3 ½ hours of pure pleasure as the hills have now turned into mountains and the views, wow. Sailing up Queen Charlotte Sound was like anywhere and everywhere on the West Coast of Scotland but the mountains are covered in trees, and the good thing is the further south we go the bigger the mountains become.

We arrived in Picton which for once the Rough Guide had understated as there is so much to do. Once off the ferry, which was a bit of a tight squeeze but I think we still have the roof on, we got to our next top 10 campsite. Again perfect, clean, loads of facilities, very friendly staff. There may have been a spot of bother when I tried to reverse the van to the electrical hook up point as my reversing sensor, Julian, was a little faulty and managed to guide me into a tree. All I am going to say is special awareness, he has managed to bang his head getting out of the driving cabin to the back about 50% of the time!!!!
Picton is a little commercialised but we love the place. There is so much to do and the area is just gorgeous.

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SO MUCH TO SEE BUT SO LITTLE TIME. Unfortunately we do not have time to stay long as we need to head south and this holiday is turning into a recognisance mission for next time rather than seeing the whole country. We could quite easily spend 4 weeks just kayaking around the islands here.
Seeing all the fit Kiwi’s has made me feel a little slobby so I have been trying to get some exercise in the pools and tonight I went for a jog up Victoria Domain to Bob’s Bay and Harbour View. I will say with Radiohead blasting in my ears, feeling good because I am doing something, in the middle of nowhere overlooking all of Picton and the mountains, I did have one of those moments in your life when everything goes in slow motion and you just think, this is amazing!!!

Hobitometer: We have 3 awks mainly for yesterday as we drove past Mount Tongario and Mount Ngauruhoe, which were Plains of Gorgoroth and Mount Doom (the bit at the end where Frodo finally throws the ring away).

Comedy moments of the day: I have had to have 2 today. Both on the campsite, the first a German guy using an electrical shaver to shave 5 days growth. If the pain was not bad enough the shaver gave out half way and the poor guy did not know what to do as he only had a beard on the right side of his face. Second moment, me having a shower after my run then turning my shower off and hearing the loudest scream from the cubicle next door as his water must have gone red hot. Let’s just say I was not hanging about to find out who it was!!!!!

Posted by karlg598 00:54 Archived in New Zealand Tagged cruises Comments (2)

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