Franz Joseph is most widely known for its glaciers, yes I know, I thought these things only existed when the dinosaurs were alive but no there is two spectacular ones in this neck of the woods. Again, don't wanna sound like a broken record, but the scenery on the drive from Queenstown to Franz Joseph was absolutely magical, we were forced to stop the car at one stage and take it all in. Peaceful & Serene.
Firstly, Franz Joseph itself is tiny, expect two parallel streets and a handful of shops, bars, restaurants and the hot pools, which are highly recommended for some relaxing in the evening time. There is also an ultra-high skydive possible here, higher than 15,000 feet although the price does escalate drastically the higher you wanna go up, which I suspect is more of a technical achievement rather than an experiential one. The same one as Queenstown is about 20/30 bucks cheaper here and I'm confident the scenery is equally matched. There is a glacier south of Franz Joseph, which we purposefully skipped on the way. Its called the Fox glacier and it is 13km long, the terminal face is easily accessible for visitors to look at but apparently for the full experience the Franz Joseph glacier is much preferred. The Franz Joseph glacier needs to be accessed via helicopter which makes it pricey, but who doesn't want a ride in a helicopter eh! Before that, we obtained all the necessary garments and tools which contained plenty of woolen materials, boots and the adjoining steel crampons, which help with traction on the hard ice terrain. The helicopter ride was awesome, one because it moved so effortlessly so closely over the mountains and two the valley entrance towards the glacier was spectacular. You can see a picture of this as we approached the glacier below.
So what is a glacier, basically it's just a big larger river of ice/compacted snow that slowly shreds its way down mountain sides (I said basically!) The helicopter landed right in the middle of it and we started our exploration. It's tricky and dangerous to navigate your way around and if your not paying attention you could easily fall to your doom down a hole or crevasse, which can be deep and filled with perishingly cold water, say good bye! Despite the ice environment, once the sun is shining it is quite hot up there. We used ropes and bolt anchors to help us climb some of the protruding terrain. Some of the shapes created were magical, especially the tunnels which can be seen in the image far below. So yea this was my first time seeing and feeling a true glacier, we spent almost half a day here and the scenery again was so impressive. Franz Joseph is definitely a worthwhile visit if your coming from the Queenstown direction.
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