Receding at an alarming rate we thought we had better check out the Franz Josef Glacier whilst it still existed. One of the most accessible of New Zealand's 3100 glaciers we enjoyed a 6km hike from the village of the same name to the snout of this captivating frozen river at only 300 metres above sea level. Sarah's brother had visited this ice tongue some 8 years previously, back then you could easily walk on to the ice and enjoy a guided trek around and into the crevasse filled valley. Since 2008 the glacier snout has retreated a few kilometres and glacier walks are now only available via helicopter as the ice fall at the snout has become too treacherous and unstable.
In the midday sun (when only a true Brit would be out walking) you could see the heat from the solar glare melting the ice and freeing its hostages of silt and stone, that tumbled and free wheeled down the icy slope to join the river that flows from the glacier's base. This silt-laden river meanders and braids through the flat bottomed glacial valley floor dumping its load in huge banks, islands and beaches during the short 19km journey to the Tasman Sea.
The mountains that overlook this scene are dotted with surviving temperate rainforest full of Beech, Rimmu and tree ferns all draped with moss and plastered with lichen.
Franz Josef's river flows only a short 19km journey to the Tasman Sea
You can click on this picture to read the sign if you want to know about giant Moas!
At the snout of the glacier
When the ice melts away large pile of stones are left...