New Zealand Tour: Franz Josef

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So my phone was broken, but at least I wasn’t hungover from the night before. I had flashbacks of different songs, but honestly, I doubt I could recollect them all. I was a microphone hog, I admit it. What is a man to do when Summer Lovin’ comes on and you’re the only man drunk enough to try and hit the high note at the end? Before you ask, no I did not nail it. In fact, no more will be said of it.

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It was a new day, the air was crisp and cold and half of the group went up in a helicopter to go and walk on a glacier. As I’d spent all my money on other ventures, I sat-out this particular jolly-up and all of the others who didn’t get their permission slips in on time headed up a walking track to get a good look at the glacier and a few other photo-worthy spots.

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Being without my phone, the best Canadian I know continued her role as my unofficial NZ photographer, only now the position was full time. A funny thing happens when you put a Brit and a Canadian together, there is a strange mash of overt politeness and cutting sarcasm. Whenever I wanted a picture in a nice spot, I was too polite to ask, but as soon as I threw in a “this is such a nice spot,” or a “wow that’s such a good view,” the Canadian need-to-please took over and Kelsey would always ask if I wanted a picture. So thank you, Kelsey for picking up on my extremely obvious hints and taking some awesome photos while my phone was out of action!

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The Valley Walk itself was great. It was only a short hike, and I was surprised at how quickly the walk ended, that was until Katie explained that two guys once tried to climb up to the glacier and got taken out by a massive rock. Guess they’re not really fans of The Rolling Stones. Ha…Ha…Ha. But seriously though, they died.

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So on the way to the glacial picture-taking spot were some really nice landscapes. The glacial water that cut through the stones was a really odd light-grey colour, as the river is fed by both glacial melt and also picks up the gravelly stones of the surrounding rocks.

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It was also on this walk that I saw one of the most perfect sites I’ve ever seen in my life. I am waterfall obsessed, I have ticked off plenty from my time in Australia, and this was by far the most spectacular. The rising morning sun hit the falling water perfectly to create a rainbow as vivid as I’ve ever seen. Nature is a cacophony of brutality, destruction and unfathomably heart-stopping beauty. It has a way of forcing its way into your consciousness and reminding your brain that you, of all creatures, have been given the gift of at once understanding both its power and its wonder. I think this is why we always take a moment when we’re in awe of something, it’s always worth spending time alone with your thoughts to remember how lucky you are to be here and witness something so magnificent.

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Prose time over. After a few more aesthetic pictures and another stopover at another mirror lake (starting to get sick of these…not), we headed back to the hostel to chill out for a bit before I met up with Julie and Miles for kayaking. Anyone who has spoken to me in the last week will know that I’ve been bitching about a dodgy wrist caused from getting a little too competitive with the paddle. Luckily, it’s starting to feel better, so put away your tiny violins and play something a little more upbeat.

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I’ve never been kayaking before, so I was excited. It was also a nice change to be doing an activity that didn’t involve me briefly fearing for my life. When we got to the lake, I was blown away. The view from the canal to the glacier was fantastical. Miles and I went to check it out before we set off and spent some time skimming rocks across the surface before we jumped in the kayaks. It was peaceful, calm and was a good chance to reflect on a trip, which by this point, was in its twilight.

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All of that changed within moments of setting-off. Miles, who had kayaked before, was in control of the boat, all I needed to do was set the pace. Not wanting to let the side down, we set off at a good speed, so good that we ended up leaving the group behind, giving us an opportunity to get a closer look at the banks of the lake and some of the flora. Our guide took some great pictures, but he also told us a lot about the conservation efforts of the national park we were paddling through and how they were doing their best to protect some of their native species from being wiped out.

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This wasn’t surprising. New Zealand is an example to all over countries when it comes to environmental protection. They have 13 National Parks spanning 30,000km of diverse land. To put it in perspective, that means that over 11% of New Zealand’s entire landmass is national park territory, and therefore, conserved. Not only this, an additional 19% on top of this figure is also administered by the Department of Conservation. That’s 30% of New Zealand completely protected!

It is a testament to those who have fought for environmental protection, and to the Kiwis that they have preserved their beautiful landscapes so consistently and to the level that they have. Keep up the good work guys, we appreciate it!

Once we’d finished pissing about in boats, we were freezing to the point of huddling together on the bus for warmth like a group of penguins. Luckily, we had an evening in the hot pools to look forward to, soaking in the 28 degree water while the outside temperature couldn’t have been more than 5 degrees at its absolute hottest. It was a strange feeling, but there’s nothing quite like a hot pool when you’re freezing cold, the only difficult part is getting out.

We finished our last night together as a tour group by having a BBQ at the hostel and eating dinner together. It was an awesome way to say goodbye, and the feast was absolutely delicious, so thanks to Katie for cooking and organising it. Still, do not fear or be sad, as there is still one blog to come from this trip as we still needed to get home from Franz Josef, and the only way to do that, obviously, was to take a scenic train ride through the middle of the South Island. I will return one last time tomorrow to document our frolics.

Once again, thank you for reading!

Goodbye and take a moment

IG: malzjames

SC: jamesinaus

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