Monday, 17 December 2012

Franz Joseph, New Zealand

Once off the tranz-alpine train from Christchurch I considered getting a car for the remaining journey around the south island. This would be ideal and cost-efficient if there was two or more of us, but as it was only me the cheapest option would be $508, for 8 days - the most expensive quote was $1200! I ditched that idea as there's no guarantee I'd meet a hitch-hiker, or someone in a hostel going the same direction. Back to the bus then - I hopped on the intercity.

Franz Joseph lies at the foot of a glacier on the west coast of the south island. A tiny town - most of it geared to tourism. The YHA is big, with some large, busy rooms. Mine was a 10 bed dorm, and was populated by girls - mostly German. Sometime you have to pinch yourself to realise that you're not in Germany, there's SO many Germans here it's unbelievable. However, the girl underneath me was from Birmingham - so we had a catch-up making silly noises (the Brummie accent) at each other to try and drown out the Germans. In the common room everybody was busy behind a laptop - maybe 25 people all connecting to the outside world, but nobody connecting to the people around them. I sat and watched for a while entranced - then opened my laptop.

I walked up to the glacier, but as it's considered a hazard at the moment (they're blasting the face to make it tourist safe) you can only get within 2km of it (unless you take a helicopter). It's a good 3 hour walk from the town, though a forest area, with signs telling you where the glacier was 500 years ago. I was spotted a mile off (literally) by two Germans I'd met on the dolphin boat in Kaikoura - they said my red beanie was quite distinctive! I caught a 30 minute bus around to the Fox glacier for a look around. This one's much more accessible - you can get within 500m of it, and the walk up is much more impressive. You can also walk up onto this one with a guide - no helicopter required. Unfortunately there's no YHA in Fox, so my discount vouchers weren't valid.

Back in Franz I went to the Kiwi experience. For $30 (which goes towards the conservation) you get to see one of these super-cute little things - but as they're nocturnal you're in an almost pitch-black room with only red glowing lights. I really wanted to hold one, they're little balls of fluff - but their sensitive endangered nature doesn't allow handling - boo! There's islands in Marlborough sounds that have had all predators (cats, stoats) removed - and Kiwi's installed.

Photos coming soon - I haven't actually found internet fast enough to upload them yet

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