Jun 172012
 

Here’s a little display of the many colors and textures in the rocky riverbeds and temperate rainforest leading up to the glaciers. I couldn’t stop taking photos of the beautiful quartz intrusions in the wet granite, or the bright lichens peeking out of crannies.

Jun 132012
 
A moment of perfect light against this cliff face, caught by Iain

A moment of perfect light against this cliff face, caught by Iain

Day two started early, leaving Hokatika just after sunrise to arrive at the Franz Josef Glacier by 9:30 AM, in time for our scheduled helicoptor ride! We got there with time to spare, but were greeted with disappointing news: the weather wasn’t good enough to make the run up. Come back in three hours?

A rainbow of lichen grows on these rocks.

A rainbow of lichen grows on these rocks.

So, we went for a nice hike along the glacial riverbed that leads up to Franz Josef, got some great shots of unique rocks, waterfalls, and cliff faces, and headed back to town with a shred of hope that the cloud cover would miraculously part in time for our flight. No such luck. The office staff suggested we book again for the following morning. Despite the predictions for worsening weather, we decided to give it another chance. We booked a reservation for 9 AM and as the raindrops started to fall, headed to some nearby glacial hot pools for the evening.

After a night of pouring rain, we awoke to our miracle: clear blue skies and the top of the glacier. Sure that we’d have our chopper ride now, we walked over to the office only to be denied once again! This time? Not enough people booked for our flight; minimum of three required. So they sent us over to another agency that has smaller helicoptors, and booked our fourth flight of the trip. Thankfully within a half hour, we were walking up to the landing pad and climbing into the front seat!

The river valley below, by Iain

The river valley below, by Iain

Unbelievably, it wasn’t until I was in the front seat of the helicoptor with a big bubble window all around me that I remembered my fear of heights. Iain gave me an “Are you okay?” look, right away realizing what was going on. Fortunately I’ve had enough anxiety-ridden bus and car rides through the highlands of Guatemala and Scotland, the French Alps, the Colorado Rockies, California’s Sierra Nevadas, and the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, that I’ve gotten pretty good at basically pretending I’m watching a video game when I get really freaked out, figuring it’s better to die a calm fiery death than a terrified fiery death.

Striations in the glaciers, by Iain.

Striations in the glaciers, by Iain.

With my fears neatly bundled away, I was free to enjoy what I can only describe as a sensory experience fit for the gods. We had a bird’s eye view of everything we’d been gazing at for the last 24 hours, and more. The boney, arthritic trees, their white bark standing stark against the many-shaded greens of the mountain forests. The wineglass stem waterfall, somehow lonier and more stoic when seen from above than when worshipping at its base. And of course, the glaciers themselves, massive beyond belief, stretching white and blue, far into the heavens, only to be out-ranked by the cold, grey, snow-streaked peaks that grow along the fault-line under our feet.

Coming back down again, I realized that I’d simply forgotten about the video camera sitting in my lap on the ride up. I was glad, though, in the end, that I’d gotten to enjoy the expereince of being wafted far up into those ice-covered mountains purely, without the distraction of a job to do.

Mountains above glaciers, by Iain.
Mountains above glaciers, by Iain.

Jun 112012
 

Here Iain and I are at the Franz Josef Glacier. We just walked up a decent sized hill to a viewing platform where we got our first real look at the glacier proper. I was so excited upon first glance to see that brilliant icey blue that I let out an audible cry of delight…much to the suprise (and I hope amusement) of the group of Japanese tourists that were just around the corner. :) You can’t quite make out the immensity of the glacier in the photo since the great majority is shrouded in cloud, and a bit over-exposed in the distance.

First glimpse of the glacier

We had to get a little higher for a proper look…

The glacier road, view from a helicoptor

Stay tuned for more…