We would’ve been content to be anywhere but Westport, after our five day stint there, and we were absolutely ecstatic to step off our five hour bus in beautiful Franz Josef. It was early evening, the sky was so blue, the sun was beaming down and immediately behind us was the beautiful sight of a snow capped mountain range and Franz Josef Glacier. It was a pretty good first impression, I have to say.
We checked in at our hostel (the red roofed building in the photo above) which felt a million miles away from the hostel in Westport, in so many ways. Our room was big, each bunk equipped with a curtain, a reading light and FOUR plug sockets each.. Honestly, after weeks of sharing dorms often equipped with two (sometimes) one socket to go between eight people, this was LUXURIOUS. Because we’ve got our priorities completely right, we headed straight for the hot tub, where we were reunited with two British girls that we’d hung out with one night in Westport. Annie and Bronya are FUN and I must admit, it was nice to have two more Brits to take the mick out of the Canadians with.
Post hot tub, we decided that we would gather around the firepit that we’d spotted earlier, and the Canadians wanted to make s’mores. We got the closest ingredients we could find but ultimately I am going to have to go to Canada to experience a true s’more, what a pain.
I couldn’t tell you the story of the firepit without mentioning Ben’s near death experience! (Seriously) .. So, we were lighting the firepit and it was admittedly taking some time thanks to wet wood and very little kindling. One of the guys that worked at the hostel said he’d give us a hand, by which he meant PETROL. He poured a bit onto the flames and obviously the fire went WHOOSH, right up the spout of the petrol can. Without really thinking, the guy shook the petrol can, which was pretty much on fire, in the hope of shaking the flames off… instead it sent a stream of flames in poor Ben’s direction much like a flamethrower! LUCKILY, noone was hurt and we got everything under control, with the hostel guy apologising profusely, but it could have been so, so bad!
All was quickly forgotten as we tucked into s’mores and told stories round the fire; it was a very stereotypical traveller moment!
The next day, after Ben and I had leisurely spent about two hours in the hot tub, we all decided to set off towards the glacier, though it was a lot cloudier than it had been when we first arrived. Hoping the cloud wouldn’t spoil the views, we carried on along the path through the forest. It was a really beautiful walk and crucially, not noticeably uphill.
We chose just to walk to Sentinel Rock (as Ben and I were foolishly wearing flip flops) but even this provided a great view of the glacier itself. We planned to potentially do a bigger walk the next day (but we never would because poor visibility made it a bit pointless). We hung around for a while at Sentinel Rock, as the cloud was pretty fast moving and we hoped it might clear. It didn’t disappear fully but I think the photos still turned out alright.
We walked back down towards town in good spirits, with the intention of acquiring cheap wine for the night ahead! Always a great plan.
Once again, with Annie and Bronya in tow, we hit the cheap wine and set about singing along really badly to Ben’s angsty playlist, much to the annoyance of our fellow guests I’m sure. With it now completely dark, we decided to go five minutes up the road and do a forest walk where we could see glowworms. The forest was SO DARK, like you couldn’t see anything at all and it was pretty scary, y’know when the dark is just too dark. It was worth the blindness though, as slowly we started to see twinkling blue lights amidst the trees– glowworms! Apparently they recoil at noise, so we had to be very quiet. It was a pretty special sight to behold, twinkling glowworms below and one of the clearest, starry skies I’ve ever seen above. It was really beautiful.
On our walk back down the path, still in total darkness, Harrison decided to make a menace of himself and took great pleasure in giving us all multiple frights as he jumped out from bushes or creeped behind us.. Cheers, Harrison..
The next day’s activity was chosen by Ben and it’s not something I’d have ever chosen but hey ho. We went horse riding! Back at home, I think health and safety would dictate that you’d only be allowed to walk at a gentle pace, having zero horse riding experience. This is not the case in New Zealand as our guide literally had us GALLOPING on our horses, which was fun but mostly terrifying. I’m not really a fan of horses and I did literally say “can I walk your dog instead?” but our guide was having none of it. She took us through a mini rainforest and over sand and through a river, all soundtracked in my head by “Flash! Ah-ah!” (because my horse’s name was Flash). I liked my horse, he was lazy and looked for the shortest possible route wherever we went, i.e. I got hit in the face by branches a lot. If I were a horse I’d be like Flash though, so fair play.
I enjoyed the horse riding way more than I expected, it was really fun. I also really enjoyed mooching in the hot tub for an hour afterwards, that was great. I really enjoyed Franz Josef overall actually, we had a really good time there and the hostel gave us free waffles for breakfast each morning and it doesn’t get much better than that, does it?