A New Zealand Road Trip continues…
Next stop Glacier Country. It’s only a few hours south of Hokitika and the only way to get there by car is via State Highway 6. Named ‘one of the top coastal drives in the world’ by Lonely Planet, this highway is sandwiched between the often fierce Tasman Sea on one side and the formidable Southern Alps on the other. Driving this highway lets you experience the extreme diversity of New Zealand’s landscape, from stunning ocean views to hidden pre historic looking rainforests. The only thing missing in the dinosaurs.
It is deep in this rainforest that you will find first the Franz Josef and then the Fox glaciers. There are actually hundreds of glaciers here, but these two glaciers are New Zealand’s most famous and most accessible ones. You can easily get up close and personal with these glaciers by taking a guided hike or ice climb. Or you could aim for a bird’s eye view through by helicopter or airplane. There are plenty of options available. The towns of Franz Josef and Fox exist to provide these options and more.
And now there is one more option – the Hukawai Center. Catering primarily for those rainy days (and there are a lot of them in Glacier Country) when visibility is non existant, the Hukawai Center offers a new way to explore the glaciers. It’s Interactive Walkthrough uses audio-visuals, amazing 3D creatives, leading edge animation technology and local knowledge to create a stimulation of the Franz Josef Glacier, complete with ice caves and crevasses.
It also offers a 10 meter indoor ice climbing wall. And that’s where I headed soon after I arrived in Franz Josef. I’m not a climber. I don’t even like heights. But something about the idea of ice climbing appealed to me and I wanted to give it a go in comfortable and safe surroundings.
So I suited up, loaded up with equipment, and got tied up with rope. I was good to go. And under the amazing patience of my instructor, I managed to slowly make my way up the ice wall. Very slowly. Not very far. In fact, only a couple of steps up and I was ready to get back down. But my instructor persisted and somehow I made it up another step and then another.
I never reached the top. But that’s okay. Just trying was enough.
(Disclaimer: That’s me on the left. I only wish I could have been as agile as the climber on the right)