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Wild Boars and Helicopters

Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand

With some very sore heads in the group it was time to thank Les for his hospitality and head off into the mountains to our next destination Franz Josef. First port of call was Pukekura and the Bushman Centre. The centre itself is run by some bloke who used to catch wild deer on the surrounding mountains and hills by jumping out of a helicopter! He was also a bit of a knob!! After watching a film of people shooting and jumping on deer to the Top Gun theme tune I drew the short straw and had to get in and feed a massive Wild Boar by hand. Not something I particularly enjoyed after seeing Hannibal the film where they are trained to eat human flesh!!

Once we had finished our feeding the possums and stuffing ourselves with brekkie we headed off in the now really warm sunny day and left the wierd kiwi bushmen to themselves. Next on the agenda was a walk up to a viewpoint at Okarito through rainforest. Yet again Bodhi did his usual of telling us it was a 30/40 minute walk. What he didnt say was it was 30/40 mins each way!! He even covered up the signs with his t-shirt! It was a really nice walk despite the suprising heat and the views from the top were quality and you could get a full 360 degree view which included Mt.Cook and the Franz Josef Glacier our destination for today. What wasnt too good was the fact that I was sweating so much it looked like i'd jumped in a swimming pool! Thankfully I wasnt the only one. The walk down was alot easier and I managed to cool off before we got back down to the bottom where we had lunch and fannied around on the beach for an hour or so catching a few welcome rays. Not something I expected to do in NZ!

It was now off to Franz Josef village to book our trips for tomorrow. The choices being, a half or full day hike up the glacier or a HeliHike. Despite the expense I didnt think there was a decision to be made and went for the HeliHike, sod it you only live once! Once we had booked in and got all the arrangements sorted it was off to the hostel to for dinner, a few drinks, a couple of games of pool then to bed praying for the weather to be clear the next day.....

After a bit of cloudy morning the weather started to break just as we were heading to the meeting point. Because I'd chosen to do the HeliHike I got a nice lie-in in the morning and didnt have to get out of bed till 10.30! Everyone else in my dorm were doing the full day hike and had to meet up at about 7.30! Ha ha ha... You could now see all the way up the valley to the glacier and mountains behind! Once we were all kitted out with our jackets, socks, boots and crampons it was time to head to the helipad. Being afraid of heights and never having been in a helicopter I have to admit I was on the verge of wetting my shorts. Once in the chopper I all my nerves disappeared and the ride up the glacier was one of the best experiences of my travels. Despite the pilot throwing it around like a mad man the views were absolutely amazing and I had a stupidly big smile on my face. Being worried about weeing myself with fright was quickly replaced by the fear of weeing myself with excitement!!!

The 15/20 minute ride took us up to the top of the glacier and around then we were dropped off about half way up to start our trek. Our guide for the couple of hours we were to spend up there was only 18yrs old!! There are no paths or tracks to follow, the routes you take are cut out of the fresh ice by the guide with an ice axe. Dozy arse me was the first person to take a tumble as I was carefully making my way up away from the landing area. I soon learnt that the more confident and quicker you got, the safer and easier it
was as the crampons got more of a grip and you maintained your balance. By the end I was like Stallone in "Cliffhanger" jumping across crevasses and running about like a loon.. Some of the others in the group didn't cope as well and were scared shitless for most of the trek pottering around sliding and slipping all over the shop!! It is really hard to get perspective while on the glacier as everything is so huge. Something that looks like a little overhang of ice is in fact a 100ft cliff face!

The 2 and a half hrs seemed to fly by in no time and it was time to catch the chopper back down to Franz Josef township. I had the window seat on the way up so I decided to let Jimmy have my place on the way back down. Having initially been thankful of my kind jesture he wasnt too keen when we hit a bit of turbulence and the door was wobbling so much it looked like it was going to fall off!!

Thankfully the helicopter stayed in one piece and we headed out for a bite to eat then back to the hostel for a bit of a power nap to prepare ourselves for a bit of a session on the beers to crown a very, very enjoyable day!!

permalink written by  The Hulk on April 12, 2007 from Franz Josef Glacier, New Zealand
from the travel blog: The Hulk goes Down Under!
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