A Visit To New Zealand’s Fox Glacier Doesn’t Turn Out As We Hoped
Within a few days of Kathleen’s arrival I’d realised a visit to one of the two glaciers along the West Coast was something my Arizona born-and-bred friend was really looking forward to. With low misty cloud still obscuring any chance of seeing the hills alongside us, let alone the mountains, off we went to Fox Glacier – recommended as being the ‘best’ one to see.
We stopped for a bite of brekkie at Franz Josef and noted the huge numbers of tourists looking, and probably feeling, as dejected as us as the rain continued. We felt particularly sorry for the many cyclists we passed as we drove by, dry at least. Knowing ‘rain’ and the ‘West Coast’ are synonymous did little to enthuse me as I pointed out where the amazing mountains were hidden behind the clouds. I guess Kathleen wasn’t in awe at their beauty.
It wasn’t long before we arrived at the parking area next to the track to Fox Glacier. The heavy rain had again turned torrential so we decided to sit awhile alongside other cars and hope we would see a change. After thirty minutes – and no let up – we made a bold decision. We had dry clothes in cases on the back seat, let’s not care about the rain. Let’s go anyway.
The wind had built up so brolleys weren’t an option. Despite our coats, we were soaked by the time we reached a small building at the beginning of the track to the glacier, some ten metres away. But so what? It wasn’t a cold day, just incredibly wet. Then disappointment slammed into us. Around the building – a toilet block we’d discovered – we could see a gate across the track. A sign indicating the track was closed due to rock falls might have been ignored by others we could see walking along the track but no way were we going to ignore its warning.
Disappointed the sign hadn’t been placed in a more visible place, ie where it could have been seen from the warmth of our car, we dashed back to it’s dryness and proceeded to strip off our dripping clothes. A Mazda demio isn’t so big, we discovered. Searching cases for clothes, stripping and replacing the wet items, particularly trousers and shoes and sox proved not so easy.I guess we decided we had to laugh as we got the heater going full bore and the wind buffeted the car so much we wondered if it was going to end up in the river. I didn’t feel like a swim with the ice broken off the glacier.
Not to allow the visit to be a complete waste of time, I insisted we had to drive up to the glacier viewing place. How annoyed we would have been to hear later that this view of the glacier might be available even in heavy rain. The drive of maybe 5 or so kilometres through dense bush was lovely even in the rain. However it proved to be a wasted journey. As you can see from my photo, the view through a small break in the bush, showed nothing but mist.