Day 125 - Glaciers
No time to feel sluggish after all that food and beer… We were up at 5.30am when it was still completely dark to drive to a little wooded area called the ‘Glow worm dell’, where we could see glow worms! They don't come out in photos, but imagine small luminous fluorescent green dots spotted around the side of a wall… then we drove to find a good spot for morning coffee and found a lake where the sun was rising over it… to top it off, we saw an Kiwi in the wild, pecking around near our van! It was quite far away but had the unmistakable stocky round body and long beak… We were thrilled! A little later another flightless bird appeared really close to us from the bushes, it was so bold it came right up to us looking for food! We looked it up and it's called a 'Weka', and they are quite common and not scared of humans… unlike the timid Kiwi we DEFINITELY saw earlier. Definitely. After the sun had peaked its head over the distant mountains we began to drive off to the glaciers!
I recounted my memories of the massively impressive ice giant of the Franz Josef glacier that I conquered as a 19 year old, a tale of walking to the glacier with my chums, having to wear crampons to get onto the ice, climbing over ladders to clear cavernous ice crevices, feeling like an explorer… Jess was excited to see the mammoth glacier but we couldn’t find any companies to let us walk on the ice unless we paid for a helicopter to drop us off on the top.. We assumed this was because the glacier is protected now but as we approached the glacier I began to doubt my memory, ‘We should see it by now… I swear we climbed on the ice there, where all those rocks are… where is the *beeping* thing’.
As we approached, walking along the dried up river bed we passed signposts stating the glaciers size in the past, ‘The glacier was at this point in 1870’, then a little further on, ‘The glacier was at this point in 1920’. There was still no glacier in site, as we started climbing up the rock we saw a sign ‘The glacier was at this point in 2009’... My climb was in 2006! The glacier had receded more than Andy’s hairline (and he’s completely bald!). It was a massive shock, in fact we walked another couple hundred yards before we got to the glacier viewing point, which was still quite a distance from the glacier itself. It ended up being a very underwhelming, shocking and sad experience for me. We had some liquorice tea which cheered me up a bit… then we headed back to the van and onto the next glacier, with some hope that it will be bigger than Franz Josef…
.. turns out it’s receded just as much. After a 40 minute walk we got to a viewing point where we could barely see the glacier. Again, underwhelming. At least the walk thr was quite cool, due to the road being unsafe there was a diversion through a very green and moss covered forest. Back to Uta and off to Haast, where we had a 10% discount on a paid for site, which meant hot showers, a heater and laundry!!
We later discovered that the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are the two glaciers decreasing in size the quickest in the whole world.