Helen, John, Majella and I walked up the street to see the glow worms last night. It was a short walk but worth doing to see the pinpoints of light in the dark forest. That was just after sunset and we headed back with the little light that was left.
This morning was to be a relaxed start. The drive to Franz Josef was short – less than 2 hours – and we had no schedule to meet. Majella had been interested in the forest walk on our last trip but we missed that on the way south that time. This time we thought about it briefly and decided that platforms in the tree tops were not suitable for some members of the party so that was off the list. In the meantime some observer of local television had noted the advertisements for the local sock factory which made the merino/possum socks we had seen in the stores. That went on the list and its 9:00 am opening time set the agenda.
We were awake shortly after 6:00 am. Others complained of being awakened by a train going by outside out back windows in the wee hours but I missed that one entirely. There was plenty of time for breakfast and a quick trip to the supermarket by some to pick up provisions for lunch before we needed to be away. I spent some time fiddling with photographs from yesterday.
Shortly before 9:00 am we headed into town (I was designated driver for the day) and found the sock factory. I did buy some woollen (no possum) socks and Mum bought gloves. We picked up fuel and headed south toward the glaciers.
Enroute we stopped briefly at Pukekura to check out the bushman’s centre and road kill restaurant. Nobody was hungry at that hour and we rolled on down the road.
We were booked to stay at JAG Alpine Retreat, just north of Franz Josef. After some delay with road works we reached there just after 11:00 am but that would be too early to check in so we headed into town for coffee at the 88 Asian Fusion restaurant in the town centre. We had been there in February and had fond memories. The carrot cake we remembered was not available but we had coffee and other treats. Majella and Debbie took that opportunity to book themselves and Mum onto a helicopter flight over the Fox glacier at 1:30 pm. We had reasoned that the walk to either glacier would be too much for Mum and that the only way she would see the glacier would be from above via helicopter.
After coffee we headed south to Fox, planning to eat our picnic lunch before dropping most of us at the glacier car park and letting the fliers head off. Picnic spots were in short supply along the road but the turn off to the Fox glacier view site indicated there were facilities there. We headed up the mostly dirt road to the viewpoint which was high enough and well positioned to allow a clear view of the glacier. There was no picnic table there so we went further up the road to the parking area where we found one and ate lunch.
Debbie took the driving from there and dropped Glen, Helen, John and me at the Fox Glacier carpark at 1:15 pm before heading off to catch their flight. We walked up to the glacier and arrived back just as they returned about 2: 15 pm. Helen had some hesitation about the last stages of the walk up the hill to the view point but was encouraged by another walker coming down who assured her that she had done the hard part. She made it.
From Fox we drove back to Franz Josef and checked into our accommodation – beautiful, well-appointed cabins with views to the mountains. Mum, Glen and Debbie decided it was time to relax but Helen, John, Majella and I headed back to tackle the Franz Josef glacier walk. That was well worth the effort. The weather was much better than it had been on our February trip when Warwick, Jim and I were well saturated by rain on the same walk. This time we had bright sunshine and excellent views of the glacier. Parts of the track to the final viewing area were over ice buried under glacial rubble and in one area there was an arch of ice melting away.
Back at JAG we showered and rested. Our lift to dinner at Blue Ice Cafe was the stretch Hummer. Mum was a bit shocked by that and we all enjoyed the novelty. Dinner was pleasant as expected – venison, fillet steak, chicken and fish around the table with a good New Zealand red wine and white for Helen and Mum. We shared desserts before summoning the Hummer for the return trip.