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south island

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Route:

The Divide –> Routeburn Track –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> Lake Howden –> Earland Falls –>  Routeburn Track –> The Divide

Total Distance:

~ 10 km (6.2 miles)

Average Walk Time:

~ 7.5 – 8 hours (round trip)

(with plenty of time to take great shots, lunch & a quick swim under the waterfall)

Difficulty:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there?

Highlights and Views

TIPS?!

INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY

The Routeburn Track is the ultimate alpine adventure that links Mount Aspiring National Park and Fiordland National Park in the South West of South Island New Zealand. This tracks would take you through some unbelievable ice-carved valleys that stretched beyond your wildest peripheral vision. With majestic snow-capped mountains, pristine lakes and meadows, it is no wonder this track is so popular amongst locals and tourists!

With Milford Sound also located nearby this track, it is no surprise that the Te Anau vicinity provides the most beautiful, serene scenes in trekking. And if you are strapped for time or do not want such a long trekking expedition, then refer to the ‘TIPS?!’ section in this article for alternative  routes you could consider! The thing I love about trekking is that it can suit anyone and everyone of varied fitness- AS LONG AS YOU HAVE THE PASSION, ANYTHING IS POSSIBLE! 😀


 

How to get there?

Though Te Anau township is the closest to Routeburn Track, the drive was still quite a far bit long from our accommodation at Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau near the town centre. According to Google Map, a straightforward driving route on the main Te Anau-Milford Highway 94 would basically take you to the start of Routeburn Track in approximately 1 hr 9 mins (slightly shorter than the drive to Lake Marian). However, we took slightly longer as we had respites a.k.a taking photos! Haha! New Zealand is just so beautiful, everywhere is just a perfect picturesque sight you know. WE JUST HAD TO STOP TO SNAP! 😀

Turn right upon seeing the small brown signage ‘The Divide’. Routeburn Track carpark is just there.

 

Highlights and Views

On Routeburn Track

Considering the estimated time needed to complete the entire trekking route, I remember we woke up relatively early for this trekking experience. And oh boy, was this all worth every minute awake. By the time we got to The Divide it was about 8-ish am, the morning sun had already peaked out.

We started on our trek passed the initial canopy of forested area and soon the route started to open up to a whole new world- literally. It was at that point that it hit me like the shafts of sunlight raying down. It was the most beautiful sight I have ever seen.

And yes, I have seen many mountainous sight when in New Zealand and they all put me in great awe, but this was just inexplicably different. Accompanied by the absolute fresh crisp morning breeze and the mountains in the great distance beyond the valleys, I was really just speechless. It was perfect.

Up the Key Summit Trail

You will reach an intersection either heading towards the Key Summit or Lake Howden. We decided to first head for the Summit- considering this was the highlight; and just in case the perfect weather decides to go south etc.

The climb up the Summit through the alpine was pretty glorious as well. The view of the Hollyford valley was pretty magnificent from way up!

At the Summit

After trekking approximately 2 hours (from The Divide) with a few respites of STOP-AND-SNAP, when we finally arrived at the Summit!

The view of the mini pond with the snow-capped mountain as backdrop was all I longed to see on the Routeburn Track. And it was exactly how I pictured it. Pristine pond surrounded by damped mosses, it was a view that will remain etched in my mind.

It was quite a tranquil experience. Though, the Routeburn track is a popular route to most people in the Te Anau region, it was surprising that there were not many fellow trekkers hanging around the ‘final destination’. Where could they all be, I wonder?

Because we hadn’t really eaten breakfast, we had our first meal of the day ON A (FREAKING) MOUNTAIN! How awesome was that! A meal with a priceless view. It was such a bliss to just sit on a boulder, with the sun shining down, holding on to a cookie, munching and having a peripheral view of the Darran Mountains.

To be honest, I will do anything to go back and relive the moment with simplicity at its best! #travelmemories

Back on Routeburn Track en route to Lake Howden

We ate, took tons of photos, and told each other how we wished the moment never past. It was our longest rest we had (for about 1 hr 45 mins). Well… … Time flies when you are being in the moment and embracing the view, no?

Then it was time (close to noon) to get up on our arses and back on the Routeburn Track heading towards Lake Howden and then to Earland Falls!

When we arrived at the Howden Hut, which is next to Lake Howden, it was about an hour past noon. Howden Hut is a camping facility for campers who do overnight treks. I understand from fellow trekkers along the way that some had travelled from the Queenstown and were making their way to Te Anau.

So basically they trekked from Mount Aspiring National Park to Fiordland National Park. We witnessed a father and young son, probably 12 – 13 years old, on this very long journey. Kudos to the dynamic father and son duo! Alas, I am not that adventurous yet to try an overnight trekking expedition! Haha! Maybe one day… …

Earland Falls

About an hour trek from Lake Howden, we arrived at the almighty Earland Falls! To be honest, when we were at Lake Howden, we were contemplating if we should give Earland Falls a miss. We were considering the amount of daylight we had left, and if we could make it back to the carpark before dark.

But being already in the middle of nowhere surrounded by forest and lake, we decided we shouldn’t leave the place without finishing what we started off. And I am very glad I have a travel partner who wouldn’t quit on me. She was alright with not seeing Earland Falls, but knowing me well enough (that I wanted to carry on), she pressed on with me. So thanks girl!

We wasted no time to dilly-dally, and scurried through the forest gingerly on uneven route underfoot!

I usually espied waterfalls from a great distance. But, this time, the 174 metres Earland waterfall was the closest I had gotten to a waterfall! It was so majestic! It was literally right in front of us. We could feel the mist! We could totally go in for a swim beneath the falls and feel its wrath as the waters spattered!

The crystal clear cold waters was just so tempting for us to soak ourselves in after a long and hard’s trek. We left Earland Falls, at about 3.40 pm, and made it back before dark! We were totally exhausted after that! Haha! 😀 But it was extremely worth it! I was so glad we did not give a miss to Earland Falls. In hindsight, it was definitely worth the extra distance trekking.


 

TIPS?!

Alternative Trekking Routes (important read)

When planning for this track, I was pretty ambitious. Because I did not want to do an overnight trek, but still would like to cover key sights, I had this personal route initially mapped out as shown below.

The Divide –> Routeburn Track (first bypass Key Summit Lookout Trail) –> Lake Howden –> Earland Falls Lake Howden –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> The Divide

However, when we arrived at the junction to make a decision to bypass the Key Summit and head to Lake Howden and Earland Falls first, we decided it was best to go to the Summit first instead (just in case we were strapped for time, and also considering weather changes).

And were we so glad we made this decision to go to the Summit first. Firstly, the view at the Summit was with obvious reasons exquisite! I am not saying Lake Howden and Earland Falls are not at all worth the trip- they are. But in all honestly, I will pick the view at the Summit any day over the rest.

However, if you are confident that time is not of the essence, then I guess which route you take doesn’t really matter?

If you are not looking at such a long trekking experience, then forget about Lake Howden and the Earland Falls. Just take a journey up the Summit. It would be a view worth it! This route would take about 4 hours return trip.

The Divide –> Routeburn Track –> Key Summit Lookout Trail –> Routeburn Track –> The Divide

Yes, I know the signage stated 3 hours return trip, but to be honest guys, of all our walks in New Zealand, never had we actually completed our treks (excluding photography and respites) based on the timings on the board. Never. So a tip is to add 1 – 1.5 hours to your planning?

Start Early!

We woke up at 4.30 at the crack of dawn. We must be crazy you say, but trust me it will be all worth it when you are 919 metres above sea level. Also, if you are getting on the long trekking route to visit Earland Falls, you would need those extra time of daylight!

Lunch + Swim wear

Because it was an entire day’s out in the forest, packed lunch of simple sandwich, cookies and fruits are much needed! Not to mention, your energy drink! You will need it!

We did not have our swim gear with us, so we did not have a go in the waterfalls. We see many trekkers very much prepared, and after a long trek, they all went in for a nice cool off in the waters! So if you wish to, bring your swim wears!

Safety first

I reckon going on any walks in New Zealand would be safer during Summer. The Great Walks season is during end October to end April. For detailed information about the Routeburn Track walk do take time to look at the brochure.

 

INTERNATIONAL GIVEAWAY

So last year I partnered with GPSMyCity to convert my travel article “Sights & Sounds: Wat Rong Khun, Chiang Rai” on the TravelWhenever site, to a GPSMyCity travel article app that can be viewed offline! For details on that, click here.

This year, GPSMyCity announced plans to introduce subscription to their travel article apps. The subscription option is now available on iTunes, with Google Play due to follow suit shortly (due to technical reasons). Effectively, GPSMyCity app users can now purchase annual subscription at US$12.99/year with full access to all travel articles for 900+ cities worldwide OR at US$18.99/year with full access to all our walking tours + travel articles covering 1,000+ cities.

I have 10 free one-year subscriptions (worth US$18.99 each) to be given away. To enter this international giveaway, there’s only one rule: Simply place a comment on this article you are reading now regarding your planned/planning travel destinations for 2018!

It would be nice if you could follow me on Instagram: @travelwhenever as well! 😀

I am most interested to know where avid travel lovers are heading this year, ya?! The giveaway entry period will last for 2 weeks from the date that this article is published.

So let’s believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world to see and give back! Remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

How to get there?

Place to stay: Lake Hawea Hotel

What you might experience?

I would say most roads on the South Island of New Zealand are just beyond words. The congenial surroundings includes long stretch of straight roads, with hectares of open grasslands, distant mountains, and occasional herds of cows and sheep. All these are in a great cosmos; all these are situated in a little region we call Middle Earth; where really, the magic of God’s creation happens.

 

How to get there?

We headed down from Fox Glacier Township towards the Wanaka region (approximately a 3 hours drive; nonstop), which will ultimately bypass the pristine Lake Hawea. So beautiful… …

And since we are passing Lake Hawea, why not have a respite at the Lake Hawea Hotel to soak in the cerulean crystal clear waters of Lake Hawea! A little pit stop before entering the main Wanaka Township! Sounds like the great plan! 😀

Taking a very straightforward cruise, drive on Haast Highway (a long drive of approximately 1.5 hours from Fox Glacier Township), towards Haast Township. Continue along Haast Pass-Makarora Road, and onto Makarora-Lake Hawea Road. Then make a left onto the filter lane on Capell Avenue. And voilà, Lake Hawea Hotel is on the right! From Haast Township to Lake Hawea Hotel, it is an approximately another 1.5 hours more.

If you continue on Makarora-Lake Hawea Road, you would be driving towards Albert Town, which will soon lead you to main Wanaka Township.

 

Place to stay: Lake Hawea Hotel

Because we will not be passing Lake Hawea again, we wouldn’t want to miss the opportunity to just be sluggish for a day or two by the Lake, doing absolutely nothing. And when I mean nothing, I really do mean snapping photos of course. Haha! 😀

TIP?

Get some groceries done prior to Lake Hawea!

There’s really nothing much to buy at Lake Hawea, though there’s a humble grocery store within the Hawea community. Cafés and restaurants are also available as well. Heard Sailz Restaurant and Bar is worth a stop by, though we did not try that- we survived mostly on sandwiches, cookies and whatnot because we wanted to leave the binge-eating for when we enter Wanaka Township!

‘Cause you save some here, you indulge some there, right? 😀 Haha!

The best thing about Lake Hawea Hotel is that is situated close to the highway heading to main Wanaka Township; which allows for extreme easy access. We could practically see the highway from our balcony!

With a clean spacious room layout, clear glass slider door that allows maximum natural sun rays to shine in, huge counter to dump all our groceries, a simple armchair (which J is always fascinated about) and, of course… the view of the star attraction; Lake Hawea- just within our peripheral version, this respite is just heaven on Earth!

Just slide open the door, and the view of the Lake is there. Perfecto!

At SGD$86.25/night per room, I would say this hotel is reasonably priced. Though based on individual’s budget, preference, and travel style, this might be very much otherwise.

J and I are not into the super high-end accommodation, though who wouldn’t want it right? While (J always calls it) Princess Living, is not the deciding factor here, a decently well maintained, clean ambience is a MUST for us.

All I can say is that we each have found the travel partner to last. Having travelled together for so long now, we know each other’s standards; for cleanliness (me having the lowest of low threshold for it, which has now subtly rubbed off some onto J), budget, location, etc.

And yes, to some, this may already be regarded as Princess Living, but it’s all about the travel style. What you splurge, and what you stinge on, is really on what you have higher regard for. And when we splurge on something, we always make up for it in other areas. Because, obviously we are not made of money too. Haha! 😀

So yeah, Lake Hawea Hotel was definitely to our satisfaction!

 

What you might experience?

En Route To The Wanaka Region From Fox Glacier Township

The magic happens along the stretch of Makarora-Lake Hawea Road. Well, excellent weather too does enhance the magic!

And how do you know the magic has happened?

IMG_0822

You cannot ever miss it! It’s just too eye-catching because the entire vista is awash with the natural beauty of Lake Wanaka, along with the clear mountain hills as backdrop. Coming from Fox Glacier Township, you would first reach the tip North of Lake Wanaka on the right. And even then, it is already insanely swooning! Not being melodramatic at all.

I recall us having a conversation similar to this… …

‘OH MY GOSH! LOOK!’

‘Shall we stop?’

‘I think there more lookouts ahead, we can drive further.’

‘OH MY, IT’S SO BEAUTIFUL!’

‘Take out the camera!’

‘Oh no, it’s at the back!’

‘Damn it. HANDPHONE!’

We did stop awhile to snap photos once we found an empty space for vehicles to safely park by the highway. And it was just even more gorgeous stepping out of the car, and viewing it through the lens. The natural sunlight was insanely good; perfect lighting, perfect landscape! At that moment, it was really the happiest day of our lives. Literally!

We noticed that road works were happening slightly up ahead to clear rock falls, and soon, cars were in tandem on the highway. After capturing the pictures I wanted, we joined in the queue, and admired the view from inside the car. Aaaa… … That’s the life…

Lake Hawea

Lake Hawea is definitely the younger sister in this Wanaka region, as compared to Lake Wanaka. Wanting a more private time? Lake Hawea is the place to be. Away from the main Wanaka Town, this pristine Lake gives you solace within nature.

Picture does speak a thousand words, but trust me when I say, you need to be there to really believe it. Believe that there’s just so much more out there in this world. Believe that there’s so much beauty in this world.

So get out there, and explore! Remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

Route:

Round trip:Parking Lot –> Valley –> Glacier –> And Back

Total Distance:

2.6 km (1.6 miles)

Average Walk Time:

~ 2 – 2.5 hours or slightly less

(with plenty of time to take great shots & light snacking)

Difficulty:

🙂

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

How to get there?

Highlights and Views

TIPS?

This was an impromptu trekking trip, and I was, and still very much am, very glad we did it! We had an extra full day at Fox Glacier (because there were some items on our itinerary we were not that much interested in anymore), and being in a very small town, there really wasn’t much we could do. So conferring with Google… … The journey through the valley to the glacier begun! Yay! 😀

I do not honestly know how and why I had totally missed this valley walk during my itinerary research, but this is just one of those walks that are pretty much less strenuous and you get views just as invigorating!

Less energy for greater returns? Say what now? An absolute MUST DO on the South Island of New Zealand!

 

How to get there?

The drive to the start of the Fox Glacier Valley Walk is a fairly easy one, and really straightforward! Just drive down South on Haast Highway from Fox Glacier Township, and immediately turn left before the Fox River bridge. This drive takes roughly 10 minutes.

The left turn will take you straight to a huge parking area, at the end of the road, where the landscape is already melodramatic enough! Surrounded by massive cliffs on each side, it is just so ethereal.

Imagine… … If the parking area welcomes you with such imprinting effect, even before you embark on your trek, what more when you are ON the trek? The view, then, would be imperatively even more wicked!


 

Highlights and Views

Since it was an impromptu trek, we arrived at the place in the afternoon. It wasn’t very crowded then, there were basically less than 10 cars present (including ours)? The weather conditions were to our favour, as indicated on the board at the start of the trek, so we were in great expectation for good views! So let’s spiel… …

The thing about valley walks is that it was something new to me at that time. Usually the treks I embarked on were climbing up hills in the forest, or clambering on the edge of a cliff (back in Tasmania). And typically we were pretty much surrounded by trees, bushes and scrubs half the time; only to have a rewarding view at the summit or at the end.

But valley walks were very much new fresh perspectives; and I LOVE it! Not that I don’t love the other treks I went on, but you get the gist.

WHY?

Valley walks are not convoluted. Out in the open, and not shrouded by the trees, the feeling of frivolousness as the sun rays galvanise everything on the open valley was just speechlessly amazing. The heaps of moraine that were left behind when the glacier retreated in the 60s, glistens under the light. It felt like diamond dusts were lightly smeared on the rocks, and if you would to take notice, they really do twinkle as you saunter towards the glacier end (final section of the track)!

You could see people ahead of you and behind. The glacier end is always in sight, so you could roughly gauge how far off were you. Views were not being impeded, and because it is a valley, due to the recession of the glacier, most gravel grounds were of minimal degree of steepness. It was inconceivable how easy the walk was!

The only time when the route got a little steep, and a tad more strength was required, was when we were getting closer to the glacier end. The gravels were loose underfoot, and with the steeper incline, it could get a little slippery. Good gripping shoes during such times were much appreciated.

I like the idea of how we are really minuscule in comparison to the hillsides encaging us; how massive Mother Nature is, and how the towering sides just energises me.

During the walk, we saw parents (fathers), carrying their precious on their backs as they gaited on. I would like to brood over the fact that these parents were incredibly awesome. If it was me, I would have fumbled, stumbled, and probably rolled down the steep gravel hill, causing damage everyone in my path! Haha!

And to see how stable the dads were, going up and coming back down with ease, just makes me want to applaud for their adept balancing and strength. Haha! 😀

We reached the glacier end viewpoint at about sunset. The close-to-evening breeze just calms your nerves and gives your lungs a refreshing renewal of air. And of course, catching our breaths aside, we took moments to just gawk at the glacier ice and moraine. Such an incredible sight it was!

IMG_0345

On the journey back to the parking area, we saw a bunch of children, their Mum and two other travellers huddled near. The kids were in awe by the Kea who was busy being fed by the travellers. The kids ended up feeding the Kea too, with food provided by the travellers. I don’t remember what they fed the Kea with. Judging from the picture I took, I reckon crackers?

And of course, I had to help the Kea take its selfie since it was looking right at me, right?! Haha! 😀

We also had the opportunity to take a good glance at the early 3/4 moon that rose just above the hillside. And it totally added as a nice backdrop ‘accessory’ in the picture, don’t you think so? 😀

Seeing so many things all packed in an afternoon, and considering it was an imprompt trip, I suppose this was such an eventful bonus day well spent!

 

TIPS?

1

Sunscreen

As this valley walk is an open area with no shade from the, at times, inexorable sunlight, slather on sunscreen you must! Skin peeling as the corollary of your laziness to apply sunscreen can look very unsightly in photos, I know… … Been there. 🙁

2

Check For Track Closure

Another tip, which is the MOST important, is to check if the track is close for the day due to ice collapse, flooding or rock falls before you embark on the trek!

You can do so at the local Department of Conservation (DOC) office at Fox Glacier Township, or at the Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre at Franz Josef Township.

Click for more information on Westland Tai Poutini National Park Visitor Centre

Fox Glacier Valley Walk is one of the easiest walks for the fairly able- bodies. With dramatic vista right from the beginning, and being greeted by shimmering moraines along the track, you will definitely not return to your motel blasé.

This track, I can safely say with conviction, is a MUST-ADD into your itinerary planning!

So remember to Travel Whenever!

Dee

What is a Helihike?

Fox Glacier Guiding Tour Package?

What you might experience?

Will I do it again?

 

What is a Helihike?

Route:

Walking on ice paved by the guide.

Average Walk Time:

~ 3 hours on ice
Difficulty:

🙂 🙂 (suitable for children of 9 years and above)

Scenery:

🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

 

From the portmanteau word, it involves a HELI-copter, and a HIKE. Hence, HELIHIKE! This guided glacier walk on ice takes you into a world of the ever changing glacier transformation with informative mini commentary by the guide!

 

Fox Glacier Guiding Tour Package?

The Fox Glacier Guiding is a company in the Fox Glacier region that provides trips up on the glacier. They have 5 tour options (including the Flying Fox Helihike), of which, not all options bring you up on the glacier.

Because we wanted to try something unique, we chose the Flying Fox Helihike! Not only would we be able to experience the brief moments of flying in a helicopter, we got to have a few hours up on the glacier exploring!

An imperative WIN-WIN! To new experiences- we cheers to that!

The essential summary of the tour package we chose:

Price

Adult: NZD $399 (inclusive of GST)Child: NZD $369 (inclusive of GST)

Duration

~ 4 hours (~ 3 hours on ice)(inclusive of safety introduction, 2 way helicopter flight, etc)
Departure Timings

08 50

11 50

14 50 (only during Summer; October to April)

Reporting Address

Fox Glacier Guiding Building
44 State Highway 6
Fox Glacier

Guide to Customer Ratio

1 : 11

Equipment Provided

a)      Waterproof Jackets

b)      Overtrousers

c)      Socks

d)     Leather Boots

e)      Crampons (given when on the glacier)

f)       Hiking poles (given when on the glacier)

What to wear?

3 – 4 layers of tops and track pants

What to bring?

a)      Sun protection (lotion, sunshades)

b)      Gloves and hat (to keep warm, if necessary)

c)      Water and snacks

d)     Camera

Miscellaneous

Ground transportation to the location for the helicopter flight is provided.

 

What you might experience?

1. Safety Prelude Presentation + Getting Into Appropriate Gear

Upon arrival at the reporting location in Fox Glacier Township, you would be instructed to get your waterproof jacket, if you needed one. And obviously I wouldn’t miss the opportunity to grab anything that could keep me warm up on the glacier.

I reckoned I was the only teeny tiny human in the tour group wrapped in 4 layers of upper body clothing even before going up on the glacier! And to count the waterproof jacket provided, I had 5 layers on me! Looking thick and puffy- it was quite an embarrassing sight! Oh well… 😀

Sounded like I was getting ready for a snow blizzard happening up on the glacier, but it was really because my body was just apt to fail on me, as always. I was adamant to enjoy myself during the trip, so I ain’t letting any cold stop me! Hence, if you are like me, just layer up!

A bus transported us from the Fox Glacier Guiding Building to an area where we would board the helicopter. But first, a mini presentation on safety and changing into proper foot gear (thick socks and boots)!

TIP?!

Wear slippers to the reporting point! As all foot gear will be provided, there’s no point wearing shoes. It is definitely much convenient! 😀

Some prefer to wear their own boots, and it is allowed, however, I would advise against it. You never know if you might get your boots doused in glacier pool during the hike, hence, it is better to wear the boots they provide.

2. Helicopter Flight Onto The Glacier Landing Site

It was my first time in a helicopter, and I was lucky enough to be able to sit at the front; next to the pilot! Taking in the best views of the upper icefall and Victoria Falls, I had an aerial view of the picturesque vistas, which was very much short-lived (approximately 5 minutes flight?).

We were the second group to arrive on the landing site. It was prefect, as this provided a good opportunity for us to get our excitement in check, analysed the terrain, and snapped some shots while we wait for the others!

Before we left the landing site to explore the glacier, we were taught how to tie our crampons to our boots.

Luckily for those crampons, which were initially hard to walk in, to keep me in place, or else I would have ran amok on the glacier due to the excitement of it all. Nah… … Just being melodramatic!

But seriously, the snowy suffused landscape under the sun-drenched afternoon rays and clear blue sky was just so dandy!

3. Hiking- Ice Tunnels, Glacier Water, Ice Gaps & More Hilarious Moments!

Throughout the hike, the guide gave commentaries about the glacier; how the glaciers flowed from its edges carving the landscape into dramatic shapes with their inexorable erosive powers, etc. Or at least that’s what I think she said?? HHhhmm… …

Honestly, I wasn’t paying attention, because every time we stopped as a horde, supposedly to listen attentively to her commentaries, I would be very busy snapping pictures! Wahaha! #inmyownworld

Self-defense time.

I am not usually like this. J, of all people, would know I love listening to commentaries, but this time, however, nothing of what she said went into my brain! Oops.

I remember our very first stop was to enter a little ice tunnel. It was just so invigorating and out of this world! I loved how the cerulean reflected in the tiny tunnel, with the ice ceiling glacier water dripping down on our heads and faces. It was definitely such a refreshing experience!

We were usually the slowest in the group because of us brazenly making quick snaps here and there. 😀 It was to an extent that the all- so- patient guide made us walk close along with her at the front of the pack! But we had our ways to slowly weasel ourselves to the back of the pack again. Haha! We really do sound like a pair of rascals on a school field trip giving the teacher a headache. Sneaky. Sneaky.

The best part of the entire hike on ice had to be us squeezing through an ice gap between tall ice walls. Somehow, the entire process reminded me of the James Franco starred movie- 127 Hours, except this was icy.

First we had to descend down ready made ice steps paved by the guide, and followed her through the ice gap in tandem. Before we advanced, she did mentioned that those who were claustrophobic could give this a miss.

We were the last few to enter the ice gap.

The way to walk through the gap is to place one foot on each side edge and trudged down. In other words, we were walking with our legs slightly open, and there was no platform between our legs. So looking down, it would just be the glacier water streaming. It wasn’t very deep or anything, so even if you slipped and fell in, it wasn’t any issue.

However… If your sunglasses dropped in… Well, now that’s an issue alright. A hilarious one too!

And here’s the dramatic scoop.

So there I was, behind J trying to be as adept as I could. Trudging through, and simultaneously snapping pictures quickly; trying not to hog up the last person behind me. But most importantly, making sure my camera doesn’t hit against the ice walls that were closing up on us as we proceed deeper into the ice gap.

Then I heard an object dropped into the water in front of me, followed by J’s ‘SHIT’ exclamation.

Soon, J was hollering slightly, “My sunglasses. Hhhmmm… Help me!”

The quick current of the water below us had made the sight of the sunglasses long gone. It probably streamed way down to some glacier pool by then. I knew her sunglasses were abjectly gone.

Then, I heard a splash. And a few moments, people at the front were passing the sunglasses to the back as if it was a baton race. Totally comical, as I saw the entire scene from the back. Apparently, the guide had ‘plunged’ into the stream below us to ‘save’ J’s sunglasses. Kudos to her! And shame on J for making the poor guide ‘plunged’ in like that. Tsk. Tsk. Oops! Haha! Just kidding… …

Because ultimately, we all had to ‘plunge’ down as well because the ice gaps were way too narrow for us to squeeze through.

At the end of this segment, our boots were filled with glacier water. Icy cold, my feet were numb, and wrinkled like an old prune.

Thinking back, it was such a dramatic experience that made the entire trip all the more intriguing. And such memories can never be bought. So I have J to thank for such moments of drama.

I mean, it is not every day you see your friend drop her sunglasses into glacier water, and certainly not every day you see the team spirit of passing the sunglasses-baton. Haha! Undoubtedly entertaining!

TIP?

In hindsight, do remember to keep any loose items before entering the ice gap, unless you too want a dramatic experience?

For more experience on Helihike, click on the video!

[youtube]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ICJpSJOsmw8[/youtube]

 

Will I do it again?

I would not do this same tour again, as I feel a onetime experience is good enough. Just as bungee jumping is a good enough onetime experience, so is this. (Though I am not saying bungee jumping equates to helihiking, it’s just a comparison. But I suppose you get my point.)

However, if given a chance, I may want to try Fox it Up: Heli Ice Climbing Adventure. We saw people doing the Ice Climb while we were on the glacier, and that looked like fun too!

Another alternative could also be at Franz Josef! I heard the walk on the glacier at Franz Josef is awesome too!

It is all about trying new things! So if you haven’t tried Helihiking, you really should have a go at it for once; either at Fox Glacier or Franz Josef! Hope this is a helpful insight!

Remember to Travel Whenever and follow your dreams!

Dee