Franz Josef Glacier

Sue repacked our 2 suitcases this morning — the big one stays in the trunk, the smaller one has what we need for the next 3 days and comes in with us every night. She made two ‘pots’ of coffee in our motel room french press and that was it for ‘breakfast’. We hit the road at around 9 o’clock. Since our drive down to the Franz Josef Glacier is just following highway #6 down the west coast I decided NOT to use google maps on my phone as the GPS; and instead I tried Maps.ME, a ‘free’ app that uses downloaded map data and so doesn’t need to have access to live data. It doesn’t have traffic updates, but it’s free, and I really don’t need traffic updates today. Well, it was like we had a new passenger in the car with us. We immediately noticed the new ‘voice’ of Maps.ME. She sounded a little grumpy, and although the app worked very well, it took us a while to get used to her saying, “In 900 metres, keep straight.” and then in 900 metres, even though there was no roundabout or intersection, she’d say, “Keep straight.” Hmmm… not really a choice, so I guess we’ll ‘keep straight’!

The drive down to Franz Josef was beautiful and uneventful. It IS amazing the diverse range of geography we see in such a short time. Plains, desert, tropical jungle, snow-covered majestic mountains, beaches, rocky shorelines, swampy ‘everglades’, etc. Like the lady from Brandon that we met in that honey shop many weeks ago said, New Zealand is very like Canada, but with all the regions of Canada ‘squished together’.

We pulled into Franz Joseph at around 1pm. Lunch time. We checked into our hostel and headed to the nearby ‘Four Square’ grocery store to buy a sandwich and a pastry. We sat on at a street-side table and had lunch. The hostel ‘manager’ had told us not to buy the $75 walking tour; just drive the 4kms to the big car park at the beginning of the trail and follow the signs along the path. So that’s what we did.

We didn’t expect to be able to get right up to the glacier — but very close. And once again, the paths and the parking and the facilities and signage were typically New Zealand ‘top-notch’. A 45-minute walk should get us near to the glacier. I ‘knipst’ a few photos of the pathway and signs and the glacier along the way. When we got to the end we were a bit disappointed that the path ahead was now closed: apparently a big rock slide had blocked the path ahead. Oh well, if that’s how it is, that’s how it is. We turned around and headed back to the car. And then back to our hostel.

We asked if we could cancel our booking — we still had most of a beautiful afternoon ahead of us, and we thought perhaps we could shorten tomorrow’s drive down to Queenstown a bit by getting a head start today. Unfortunately the guy at the front desk said he couldn’t do that. Okay. Then we’ll check into our room (private double with ensuite — none of that ’12 bunks sharing a bathroom’ business for old farts like us) and read until it’s time for supper.

While I don’t think we’re quite ready to ‘hostel’ our way around like we did a dozen years ago, it was quite interesting watching the goings-on at the hostel all day. Not too many fat Brits and Americans (or ‘hippos’, as we’ve come to call them) stay in hostels. But lots of attractive young lads and lasses do. They come in carrying HUMUNGOUS backpacks, wearing cute little tank tops, very short shorts, and big hiking boots, and carrying grocery bags. And they gather at the outdoor picnic tables and play cards and laugh a lot and look at their phones. And at 6 o’clock sharp, the whole lot of them hurry over to the big shared kitchen where they will enjoy the ‘free soup’ the hostel advertises. And did I say they are gorgeous?

We walked the one block to the main street and turned left. First restaurant was full, but they sent us to check out the upstairs. Just then a super long limo pulled up and about 10 very rowdy young hooligans climbed out and entered the restaurant. We went next door — there was a little Chinese ‘Take-Away’ there. Hey, we can do that. We ordered our food and while it was being cooked we walked down the street to the Four Square to buy another bottle of wine and a six-pack. By the time we were back at the take-away our ‘beeper’ told us the food was ready. We took our bags back to the hostel and ‘made a party’ on the deck in front of our room. Supper! Super! By now all the rooms on the second floor of our building were booked — all doubles with ensuite, i.e. old people’s rooms. And in front of each patio door, sitting at their little round tables just like we were, elderly (in age, but surely not in spirit) couples, having their dinner and sipping their drinks while the sun went down and the mist rolled in. While down below us in the big lounges, the music was thumping and the young ‘uns were eating and enjoying themselves. 

By 9:00 pm the little no-see-ums and mosquitoes chased us into our room, where we sat on our bed and looked for studio apartments to rent in Christchurch on AirBnB. Always a fun and satisfying experience 😉