We hit up Franz Josef Glacier in the afternoon, parked up the van, put on our hiking boots and took a walk to Peters Pool to start with. The path leads you to a small kettle lake, which was formed from ice melting from the glacial moraine about 200 years ago. On a good day you will have great reflective views of the surroundings. After this walk we headed to the Valley Walk, that leads to a point near the terminal face of the Glacier. Because the glacier has retreated so much in the last four years, the walk from the car park is now considerably longer. It will take about 1,5-2 hrs return, depending on how many photo stops you make.
Once you get to the base of the glacier, you will see a great big ice arch that creates an ice cave underneath. This has caused the glacier to be less stable and therefore stopped the guided glacier walks, nowadays you can only access Franz Josef by helicopter guided tours and they are pricey. However a walk up to the terminal face is well worth your time, it is rather fascinating to see a glacier that close. Although it looks a bit dirtier than you might expect from all the debris and moraine that falls from the valleys walls onto the Glacier, it is still an awesome sight. You can hear and see the ice break off, as it melts away from the ice arch. Sometimes very large pieces of ice break off from the Glacier and fall into the ice river underneath and it can cause a flood wave on the river. So its important to follow the strict guide lines of where you can and can not go, as the serene environment around you can quickly turn into a dangerous place in a matter of minutes. Always check weather conditions before leaving and don’t cross any barriers, they have been put there for a reason.
The following day we drove to Fox Village and parked up near Fox Glacier. We took The River Walk that starts from the car park at the end of Glacier View Road. This walk then lead us on to Chalet Lookout walk. At the start of the walk you cross the river that runs down from Fox Glacier. You cross over on a historic suspension bridge that was built in 1929 and on the other side you enter a green, leafy and mossy rainforest. As you come out of the rainforest you will enter the moraine and cross over a tricky area of rocks, debris and streams with no bridges. Its good we were wearing hiking boots, not like some others we saw wearing flip flops or even going barefoot! We were also carrying our waterproof jackets, which turned out to be handy as it started raining once we got to the look out.
Chalet Lookout is in fact only a historic marker and the remains of the fireplace from the 1930’s Chalet. Back in those days you could see the terminal face of the glacier directly below the chalet’s balcony. Today however, you can see the terminal face from a nearby viewing spot, but its far far away. This is a great way to see how far the glacier has retreated in the last century.
After our day of exploring the area with various walks we retreated to a DOC site about 45 min drive north of Fox Village, by the lovely Lake Mapourika.