NZ: Days 24 and 25.
Following on from the previous post, we reached Franz Josef in the early afternoon. We checked in at our hostel, Rainforest Backpackers ($30) which, as mentioned prior, is a compulsory two night stop on the Kiwi Experience routes- it is therefore 90% occupied with Kiwi Backpackers. This makes it, one, one of the big party stops along the route as people are reunited with one another and hit the drink hard in bigger numbers and two, probably one of the hostels to avoid if you’re not a backpacker.
Once we checked in to our 4 bed dorm, we made the most out of the ‘all you can eat pizza’ for $10- just one of the daily deals the hostel provides.
Following that the evening games had begun, involving some gentle drinking and then competitions such as limbo for which prizes including a free bungee jump were given out to the winners. Somehow, Jay managed to come second, although was adamant he should have won the free Bungee jump- instead he had to settle with a free bar crawl in Queenstown. All in all, a fun-fueled night and a great opportunity to catch up with everyone.
Franz Josef Glacier
The main attraction to Franz Josef, and one of the most popular tourist spots in New Zealand, is the fox glacier.
Initially, I was pretty keen on doing this and had read some good reviews about some of the tours on the Glacier. However, from speaking to other Kiwi goers, who had already done the Glacier Heli Hike experience, we were told it was good, but one of the only activities in New Zealand that isn’t really worth the money. We were told that most of the experience was in the Helicopter ride over the Glacier and that very little time was actually spent on the Glacier itself.
I’ve had already flown in a helicopter, so unlike most, I wasn’t sold on the premise of having the chance to ride in a helicopter. Furthermore, given the price, $479, which is the same price as a 15,000ft skydive, we decided to save our money and spend it elsewhere.
We’re both not one to miss out on something or an activity just because its a bit pricey and could affect our budget; Sure, our budget was diminishing, but it was still manageable. However, almost all of our closest friends who had come back from the glacier were unanimous in saying that it wasn’t anything that special- relative of course to everything else we have experienced through New Zealand and the price.
Instead, we decided to go for a hike around Franz Josef and to the base of the glacier itself, so at least we saw it.
The hike was pretty straight-forward and was well worth the half-day spent exploring the base of the mountain and the rainforest surroundings.
I don’t think I’ve ever been to a place where ice-capped mountains and alpine surroundings are encompassed by waterfalls and an actual rainforest. Bizarre.
Satisfied that we had fulfilled our activity quota for the day we returned to the hostel, jumped in the hot-tub and cracked open the beers to welcome our friends from the bus behind. The process from the previous night repeated and we were reunited this time with the people behind us.
Tomorrow, we’re heading further South towards Wanaka.
Rainforest Backpackers: $30 / £15: ****