The evening we arrived at our campsite in Franz Josef town, the weather was magnificent, we had a gorgeous view of the mountains, and the sandflies were eagerly enjoying us as their buffet. We had a beautiful sunset, and everything looked promising for our helicopter flight the next day.
When we woke up the next morning, the mountains had disappeared in clouds, and it was raining, so we were somewhat nervous about our coming experience. We had breakfast, packed up, and went for a short walk in the Franz Josef glacier valley that gave us a nice view of the glacier.
Afterwards we drove off to the Mountain Helicopters’ small office in Franz Josef. The woman who welcomed us had some concerns in regards to the weather, so she got on the phone with their main office in Fox village, and we all agreed that we should go there to stand by for better weather conditions. Half an hour later we were at Fox, and their pilot had given the ok – Mount Cook was visible just fine up there, and the conditions were better than just an hour earlier. However, they did expect the weather to get worse, so they would advise us to go right away.
So consequently, we had a short safety briefing and were taken to the helicopter field by car.
Since there are 4 of us, and the helicopter is quite small, we had it all to ourselves. Frida didn’t like the noise as we were getting in, but it helped when she got her headphones on – she and I were initially seated in the front, next to the pilot, and Mads and Ronja went in the back. Regardless of seating, we all had great views due to the large windows. We quickly took off, and flew over a few fields to the mountains. It was amazing. There were clouds and mist every here and there, but the weather conditions actually added to the dramatic scenery of the rugged mountain tops and cracked glaciers.
We landed briefly on a snowy mountain top, the pilot took a few pictures of us, and the girls made snow balls.
Back in the helicopter, we switched seats, so Mads and Ronja were in the front. The pilot took us in circles over the top of both the great glaciers, Fox and Franz Josef as well as several smaller ones.
Seeing the glaciers from above was so different to seeing them down from the glacier valleys. The ice has a very blue shade, and is covered with deep cracks – it is actually possible to go hiking on the ice as well, but you have to be at least 9 years old. Also, I think it would have been a bit of a mouth full at least for Frida, but I can imagine it must be quite an experience.
When our 30 minutes had passed, we landed back where we took off and were taken back to town. That helicopter flight was a huge experience for all of us.
We drove to Lake Matheson to have lunch at the nearby café, and while we were eating, the mountains once again disappeared completely in clouds while the rain picked up again. We did want to go for the walk around the lake and see the famous reflection of Mount Tasman and Mount Cook in the water, but without any mountains to reflect, we decided to trade it for the Fox Glacier Valley Walk. The walk was a good decision, but actually more due to the mountain walls towering around the valley than due to the glacier itself. Very nice walk which rounded off our day with the glaciers perfectly.
Well back in the camp site we all jumped in the hot spa, followed by a light dinner consisting of Frida’s favourite dish in New Zealand so far – mince and cheese pie.