Franz Josef (October 31- November 2, 2016)
Franz Josef, a town that boasts of a grand glacier. Well, maybe once this was true, but global warming has changed that status. I’m not here to lecture on the rise in temperatures and how this will be the end of human kind (you should look it up though), but I am here to tell you my impressions of my destinations. And Franz Josef is one of those places you should skip even if you have the time. Waste your time somewhere else.
Actually, the town has 2 glaciers, Fox glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Fox Glacier is much smaller, and one can barely see the ice under the layer of dirt. Franz Josef Glacier still has more substance, but doing the 30-min walk to it won’t give you the epiphany of its size. There is a billboard at the site to give you an idea what beauty it once was. A $285 helicopter tour might give you a better idea, but who has kind of money on a budget? We were going to do a 5-hour roundtrip hike, which apparently gives an improved view, but the rain theme kept playing from the days prior. Not wishing to get drenched again, we settled on laziness. We did lose some calories later in the evening when we climbed a random hill slightly removed from town for a view of the surrounding mountains and distant ocean, and our way back to the hostel was lighten up by the Milky Way.
The shiny stars I could have seen elsewhere. I guess my problem was that I’ve seen one of the best glaciers on earth, Perito Moreno in Argentina. After seeing that, how could I have been awestruck by what I had seen here? Not only that, even the small grocery store in town sells everything for a few cents more. So, I’d recommend ignoring a tiny town with higher prices but lack of captivating attractions, but move on and spend your time at a place that is at least more scenic. Wanaka was more scenic. That town was up next and was my favorite town in New Zealand.
Wanaka (November 2- 4, 2016)
As I had mentioned, Wellington was my favorite city, but Wanaka was my favorite town. Something about the lake gave the place a calm atmosphere. Besides hiking, there was not much more one can do. Even though the attractions are limited, I got a good vibe here.
We skipped rocks on the lake (New Zealand has an absurd amount of flat rocks, it’s rock-skipping-haven) and hiked up Mount Iron. From this mountain, the backdrop is gorgeous, 2 lakes and snowcapped mountains. There is another recommended hike that is longer and should have given better views, but we didn’t go. The start of the trail is a 2-hour drive away (mostly because of the rough terrain) and we could have carpooled with the same female we came to town with, but we choose not to. She returned gleaming of its splendor. If our choice was a mistake, I’ll probably never know. We were satisfied with the view we got.
Not only did we get a view, but because of our shorter choice we had time to go check out Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World, a museum full of mind twists. We saw one thing with our mind, but further investigations proved we were wrong. For example, we saw two shapes rolling on each other, but on second glance, we realized that the shapes were attached together and the piece was rotating as a whole. My favorite section was when the entire room was built at an angle, but the mind saw everything horizontal/normal. The result being, while walking through the room, that the brain couldn’t understand what’s going on, I stumbled while walking, and needed to hold on to items to not fall on my face. The museum also had a maze, which we, of course, finished way faster than the average time. The museum was great for challenging my viewpoint and made me reflect on my life, deducting what else I might be misinterpreting.
Overall, Wanaka is a nice place to relax and take in some fresh air. It’s also the town where we tried hitchhiking for the first time on our trip. Read about my stranger-danger experience to Queenstown, the adventure capital, in my next post. See you then!
Cost breakdown of Franz Josef (2 days with total cost of $41.93. Average daily cost is $20.97.)
- Hostel: $33.57 (2 nights which incl. breakfast and soup dinner)
- Transportation: $7.86 (gas money)
- Food: $0.5 (groceries)
Cost breakdown of Wanaka (2 days with total cost of $79.21. Average daily cost is $39.61.)
- Hostel: $42.85 (2 nights)
- Transportation: $8.57 (gas money)
- Food: $13.50
- Meals: $2.86 (1 meal)
- Groceries: $10.64
- Activities: $14.29 (Stuart Landsborough’s Puzzling World)