Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 26: Fox Glacier

Day 26: Fox Glacier

Pics: In and around the glacier, including one of a DC couple having their pic taken by a tour company hack planted on the trail (how convenient) that later they can buy for $12

Breakfast at the B&B: homemade crepes filled with fresh fruit with crème and rhubarb on the side, a bit of muesli, fresh-made bread and home-made jams, coffee with hot milk (included). As we get up to leave, coming into breakfast is a couple the DB recognizes from having been on the boat cruise we took in Abel Tasman NP three or four days ago. We also saw a pair of German women camping in Abel Tasman NP that had been on the water taxi that dropped us off at the beginning of the QCT (so, like 7 days after first sighting). This happens more often than you’d think; there is a sort of tourist circuit, and even though you only see a few people in each spot, you have a good chance of seeing some of them again.

We arrive at the Franz Joseph Glacier (FJG) tour company for our 8:45am half day walk on the glacier. Ooops, we have you booked on the all day trip which left at 8:15…and, we’re sold out of half day trips for the rest of the day. After a bit of teeth gnashing, the chicken disk person offers to call to the next glacier down, can they take us? Yep, no worries, send ‘em down. DB negotiates that at least the FJG guys should comp us on the hot pools (which we end up passing on, it is too easy to relax at our B&B).

So, a half hour drive south (we’ll repeat this drive tomorrow as we leave the area), arrive in time for the 9:45am half day tour, AND the Fox Glacier (FG) is $40 cheaper than FJG…we buy a couple of power bars, add in two of our traveling apples, and we’re good to go! A short bus ride and we’re set to start hiking on the Glacier…ooops, the tour “includes” a 75-90 minute hike up and down the side of the mountain next to FG, and of course it is humid (and probably in the mid 60s, though it always seems hotter with this level of humidity). Fortunately, THB starts in shorts and a long-sleeved sun protection type shirt.

Pop on those crampons (THB is one of the few whose boots work for the crampons because you need an arch in your soles for the crampons to rest inside of; the rest, including DB, had to switch to boots supplied by the tour company at the starting point), add layers to fight off the cold breeze now coming down from the top of FG, and we start tromping (cramponing?) up to a plateau and then back down to where we start, well more than hour. The trip back to the bus after we’re off FG is more direct, closer to the river flowing out from FG than up and down the side of the mountain…we’re back to our car around 2pm.

Fortunately, with the two power bars (well, they included chocolate, so maybe they should be called trail pudding?) and the two apples, it was enough to tide us over to the leftover pizza awaiting us at the B&B. Lunch: $4.

Many of you may remember that we also visited and hiked on glaciers in Patagonia in 2007 with Sharry and Alec (even booking a return viewing by boat when our flight to Buenos Aires got postponed and then transferred by bus to a whole other city 5 hours away...another great travel story). Fox Glacier (and, THB believes, Franz Josef) do not compare because they lack the deep glacier-blue you see in Patagonia, plus the level of moraine that dusts the lower levels of the glaciers here make them appear much dirtier. And, in Patagonia the icebergs were worth a detour! It is possible that if we had taken a helicopter to the top and walked around, it would’ve seemed more pristine. All that for $320/person…THB would’ve resisted, it looked like a very short ride (like THB is looking for a long helicopter ride!) for the money. Hey, this way we got another hike in the NZ humidity…damn, even with snow on the ground, we get humidity!

On the ride back to lunch at the B&B, another strong downpour; good news: we’re off the hike; it would have been a disaster to be hiking in the rain on a dirty glacier. Hiking karma!

Dinner again at the Blue Ice Café…not as good as last night. THB tries the mussels, they come in a very heavy cream sauce, the frites are very mediocre, DB has the salmon (cooked perfectly, sauce a bit sweet), a shared streaky bacon, pear and blue cheese salad again, bottle of sauvignon blanc, $90.

And, many of you think THB is making most of this up, which is true. Tonight, as we enter the restaurant, there are our German women at the front table. It has been another 3 nights, four days, since saw them camping out on a beach in Abel Tasman NP. Wherever you go, there you are!

At FG and at dinner tonight (say a total of 100+ people), THB thinks we see NO Kiwis, zero, nunca, nada, zilch, nobody (excluding service staff). It is 100% tourists. We do not talk to anyone that would say “afternine” and you would have to translate it to afternoon. We don’t overhear anyone with a Kiwi accent. Do you think the couple wearing NZ sweatshirts are Kiwis?


  1. Vicariously enjoying your trip. We did the FJG half-day walk with crampons and our thighs ached for days. You too?

    When you get to Lake Te Anau, if you've never done it before take the tour to the glow-worm grotto. Definitely worth it.

    Jay W

  2. J: glad to see your following along! We did not have sore thighs, though DB's back did hurt last night (related?)...We've done a bit of the glow worm thing, we might make it up that late (if it has to be night time...)...THB