|From Barrytown to our next stop, Franz Josef, was a pretty full day on the bus. Couple of stops at more lakes and the like, but generally it was just motoring to the glacier town, where we had two nights to stay, and could prepare for the big glacier hike the next day.
Staying in a hostel called the Rainforest Retreat, which has the biggest outdoor hostel hot-tub around, so definitley saving that for after the hike. Good bar connected to the hostel, where they insisted on playing pretty stupid games in order to win rafting trips/canyon swings etc. This time we had to do a slalom course in teams, dressed in rafting gear with an oar between our legs. Despite a strong performance, sadly we didn't win. Anyway, early night, as big day tomorrow.
So the full day glacier hike arrived. After getting all the gear from the tour company - waterproof clothing, boots, crampons etc we set off for the base of the glacier. As soon as we get off the bus it starts raining. Little trek through the forest and we are 2km away at the bottom. Split into different groups, as not everyone able to walk as far/quick as everyone else and we're off. The clouds are pretty low, but you can still see the glacier rising up into the mountains, and there is the potential of some sun to come.
Climbing up the terminal morraine is covered in rocks that have been pushed down by the movement of the ice. But the ice itself is so blue, a really pure colour throughout, so amazing. Once we get to walk on the ice with our crampons it is quite slow going as the guides have to cut new steps and paths each day as the glacier is continually moving and changing the way. No matter, we each had our own little pick-axes to entertain ourselves with while we were waiting, so I did my best to speed up the retreat of the glacier with constant hacking away! Once up close on the glacier, what seemed like a continuous ice plane, is actually split up and separated by so many crevasses and caves and just really difficult to traverse. Guide is totally necessary. Some amazing formations of caves, holes, tight squeezes. Never done anything like it before, and probably won't for a long time (although christmas freeze in UK might give me an earlier chance than I thought!). Lots of snack stops, photo stops and general gazing at the awesome glacier.
Eventually time to come back down. On the way down helicopter flying around all over. Later learn that it was a search and rescue for some guy who had gone solo, with no equipment onto the glacier. Not a good story I'm afraid. But shows the scale of the glacier and how careful you have to be.
Knackered from a full day of ice hiking, the hot-tub was definitely required and didn't disappoint. Truly awesome place, and nice to be able to spend a bit of time there without having to jump back on the bus straight-away. Glacier hike - done.