Landing on a glacier is nothing less than a bucket list adventure, but what made this even more special is the fact that this part of New Zealand is home to two of the world’s only three glaciers that meet sub-tropical rain forest. (The other is in the Andes Mountains.) Our heli ride swept us across jagged mountains with distant views of the Tasman Sea. Climbing to 6,000 feet, we were deposited on the névé of Franz Josef Glacier atop Mt. Tasman.
My jaw dropped upon stepping out of the helicopter onto packed ice, although it was surprisingly uncold. Having lived in Guam for nearly five years, I hadn’t seen snow in nearly that long.
We watched other choppers descend into the wide plateau under the bright mid-morning sun and all too soon, we climbed back into ours. Our flight took in Fox Glacier and the 12,000-foot peak of Mt. Cook. We hovered above ice ‘marshmallows,’ precipitous waterfalls, and isolated pools, flanked by green sub-tropical rainforest. Our ‘helipad’ for takeoff and landing was situated next to a crystal glacial stream that we drank from and where you see us standing below a former bridge. We booked and were satisfied with Fox Glacier and Fran Josef Heliservices, in case you’re planning this trip.
I have no shortage of superlatives to describe the untamed beauty and sometimes otherworldly landscape of New Zealand. Nine days was not nearly enough to see all the major sights of North and South Island, but I am glad we hustled to Franz Josef for this adventure. And I do mean hustled. We skirted hairpin turns on a two-lane road for what seemed like days to get there, but it was worth every minute to experience this.
The GoPro was rolling the whole time, which means you should stay tuned to Sound of Chic for a New Zealand movie in the near future.
The township of Franz Josef is only 330 residents strong and a couple of streets wide. It was a picturesque place to plug-in our campervan for the night. We perched on the patio and savored elevated pub food from The Alice May, whose namesake has a colored past that includes murder of her husband, conviction, and subsequent exoneration. I even went back for dessert as the sun dipped below the southern Alps.
Photography by Timothy & Jessica Peterson