|After leaving Greymouth the bus took me towards the Southern Alps proper. Unfortunately the weather was terrible with low cloud and lashing rain and I only once got a glimpse of snow capped mountains through the clouds on the way into Franz Joseph. Franz Joseph iteslf is a really small town but is famous for the large glacier that is nearby, also called Franz Joseph.
I settled into the hostel, which turned out to be quite impressive. The dorm room had its own on suite bathroom and kitchen and tv/video player so I ended up not leaving the room for most of the day. I really wanted to do the heli hike on the glacier which is where you take a helicoptor to the top and then walk around some ice caves before coming back down. The weather was still bad though so I was determined to wait around for it to improve. The two German girls I had met previously did the regular hike up the glacier as did most of the others in my room. Afterwards the people in my dorm were really tired and not up for any partying so it ended up being a quiet night in with some videos.
Bad weather the next day resulted my spending 5 hours on the internet (there is not much else to do in Franz Joseph). When I returned back to the hostel I found some new people in my room and had another quiet night in with them watching videos.
The weather forecast for the following day was excellent and on waking up I was greeted with a clear blue sky which was perfect as I had booked my heli hike for that day. Annoyingly I had booked the hike for midday and by 11.30 it began to cloud over and by the time we had been briefed and brought to the helicoptors it was completely clouded over again. Typical!
Still, I had quite a good view flying up the glacier and the top part was free of clouds and really spectacular. We landed a little bit further down and did a two hour walk on the ice (after putting some crampons on). There were some ice caves which were really cool and the cold blue colour was beautiful in places. Apparently many of the glaciers in the world are black on the surface but this one is white for some reason. This glacier is also the lowest and the fastest glacier in the world apparently. After claiming the life of a camera of someone in our group (she managed to drop it into one of the puddles on the glacier) we got back on board the helicoptor and headed for home.
Some of the others in my room: Julia, Joe, Holly and a Kiwi guy did the full day treck on the glacier and were knackered when they came back in. Someone even managed to rub the skin away on parts of their feet due to the ill fitting boots they had been given and the distance covered. Everyone decided that it would be a good idea to go to the pub anyway where we ran into a load of people off the Kiwi Experence bus. When the bar closed we went to the late night bar, the Ice Bar where the drinking continued. By this point I was pretty hammered and my recollection is slightly hazy. I remember playing killer pool with some random guys and their not liking me becuase I always got really easy shots, also my being very impressed that I was able to get some chips made up at 2am at the bar although they were slightly slow in coming bacause the chef was snogging some random girl he had just met. We left when that bar closed.
I was meant to get up at 6.30am to get on the tour bus however I was far, far too hung over and missed it. The sleep in was really nice and I managed to stagger down to reception to book another night before the deadline of 10am. Unfortunately the others I had been out with the night before were leaving in the morning on their seperate ways which was a shame as they were cool people.
Amazingly no-one else came into the dorm room that day so I had the room to myself. After a very lazy day I ended up taking a few videos from reception to provide the evening's entertainment and before long was in bed.