We left camp and headed South on Highway 6 towards the glaciers. The first one we came upon was Franz Josef Glacier. It was raining when we drove, and we speculated when the rain would stop. We tried delaying our entry into the glacier area, stopping for breakfast and coffee, hoping the rain would cease. When we got to the township, we went to the visitor center and even shopped with the rain still going on. We had been looking for “buffs” for both of us for a while now starting in South America, with no luck. We found some New Zealand themed ones (proceeds going to help the Kiwi’s) that were in our price range, and felt excited to have a multi-purpose headband. I use it often as a scarf, a wrist band for my nasty sweat, or a bandana in the morning (for my nasty morning hair), and Steve uses it more as a bandana.
We decided to drive to the glacier trail head and ate our lunch in the warm car. We had been in this predicament before at Torres Del Paine, and the 1-hour hike was one of the worst hikes in our life. In the end, we decided it couldn’t be so bad, and chose to do the 90-minute hike. Just as we started, the rain had let up, and we decided to pick up the pace. We did a small 10-minute hike to a lookout, Sentinel Rock. Here, you are not able to see the current glacier, but you see how the glacier once took over the whole valley. It was shocking to see how the glacier has gotten much smaller in the last 100 years. We began the hike to the glacier, with rain off and on. We stopped at all the falls and viewpoints, but the rain got heavy, so Steve didn’t want to take his camera out. We finally reached the end of the trail where you could see the glacier, except we couldn’t see the glacier – the clouds covered it. Steve didn’t bother with his camera, we felt defeated. The rain was hard, so we picked up the pace even more and made our way back towards the car. At one point, someone was taking photos of what I thought was the trail, but to be sure it wasn’t wildlife I looked to where the camera was pointed – it was the glacier! The cloud coverage moved high enough that you could see the glacier from must farther now. Although, not close enough for great photos, Steve took a few photos, and we both felt relieved that the hike wasn’t for nothing. When we reached our car, we were soaked to the bone. We changed into dry clothes in the car, and hung our wet pants (and underpants) in the back of the van while laying our shoes and socks near the heater in hopes of drying them while we drove.
We drove the 30 minutes to Fox Glacier. Due to recent heavy rains and landslides, many trails and roads were closed. We drove to the trailhead to see Fox glacier, and in our dry warm clothes decided it wasn’t worth it. The cloud coverage was low, that even with the hike, there was a low chance of seeing the even smaller glacier. It is funny, we discussed this. I think if we were staying in a hotel with a hot shower, we would’ve jumped at the chance to do the hike. When you are sleeping in a van with one pair of shoes and limited clean clothes you think differently. We certainly didn’t have enough dry warm clothes to get soaking wet on this hike. In fact on this trip we didn’t bring a whole lot of cold weather clothes, which means getting them soaking wet isn’t really an option.
As we continued down Highway 6 we stopped once more at Roaring Billy Falls, and did the 10-minute hike there. Steve was in shorts at this time, his only dry clothes, and I was in capris. There were thousands of sand flies biting us the moment we left the car. We jogged down the path, stopped, admired, took a photo, and jogged back. By that time, Steve’s legs were red from numerous sand fly bites. They are nasty little things. And the itch for their bites are worse than mosquito bites! OUCH!
We made camp, and decided to eat inside – the sand flies were out of control and we were not in a mood to deal with them. We were hoping the rain and wind would take care of them, but of course as well settled in for dinner the rain and wind had stopped – leaving those nasty bugs everywhere.
Stay tuned – we visit Fiordland!