Not too long ago, I wrote a brief article on travel to New Zealand, inspired by my parents’ then-upcoming trip. Nine weeks later, they are back in the states, and for Mother’s Day, I asked my mom to do a little work (typical kid, eh?) and tell us about one of her experiences. This is her description of the day she and my dad (both approaching 70) took their hike across the Franz Josef Glacier on the South Island.
What was he thinking??? My husband, that is, when he signed us up for a walk on the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand.
We headed for the Glacier Walk Center at 8:30 a.m. It was teeming with people all dressed alike. Off go two bus-loads while we receive our gear. ID tags (not too heavy), waterproof trousers, Big Heavy Boots and Very Thick Socks, little red fanny pack with crampons [equipment with spikes on them that attach to your shoes for while you are actually on the ice], water proof jacket, hat and gloves. About 20 lbs of equipment, I figure. Hats and gloves go into the “mandatory” backpack along with 2 waters and 2 lunches.
We pile on the bus with 26 others, all ages, but we are the eldest. From the car park we walk about five or six kilometers through rain forest, and a gravel plain – the edge of the river running out from under the glacier. Then we zig-zag up the terminal moraine at the end of the glacier, on a trail about 1 1/2 feet wide. By the time we reach the glacier, I decide this is the end. No farther. Can’t do it. Everyone else enthusiastically attaches their crampons (1/2 lb of metal each) to their boots. Husband Joe says he’ll stay with me. But guides Rebecca and Cliff (ha – what a name) say we’ve already done the hardest part. Cliff says he’ll help – carry me if need be (two of us down an icy crevasse?). So we went on. I held on to Cliff a lot. It really was a fantastic experience – tramping up and down very steep and very narrow footpaths in the ice. Actually you are not on it, you are in it. Cliff pointed out where the glacier had recently moved, showed us a cave, waterfalls and blue ice.
Back in the motel room, with our smashed lunches and a pot of tea, we decided we were very glad to have walked that glacier!
As much fun as my parents had on their trip, I must say I am glad that they are back safe and sound. If you would like some information on glaciers a little more local (as in, ones you can get to without flying 13 hours), check out “Insiders’ Guide to Glacier National Park.”
To see some of Alaska’s glaciers (from the warmth of your own living room) and learn about them in general, check out the DVD “Glaciers: Alaska’s River of Ice.“
Finally, for the latest in the best places to visit, check out “1,000 Places to See Before You Die” by Patricia Schultz.