Day 7. Leisurely breakfast in the sit-out after waking up at 8 am. Got dressed and left to drive 21 km back to Fox Glacier, from where our helicopter flight was due to start. Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are among the most accessible glaciers in the world. Both are around 12-13 km long and are unique in that they descend from the Southern Alps onto a very low altitude (about 975 ft above sea level), into a lush temperate rainforest. The area surrounding the 2 glaciers is part of the Westland National Park and is again a World Heritage Site.
We reached Fox glacier with tons of time to spare. It was a warm day and we were all wearing only trousers and full-sleeved cotton tops/shirts (no wool) but I had come equipped with lots of options. Each of us could choose from a light jacket, a heavier jacket and a big warm fluffy jacket :) We found out that the glacier was only about 5 degrees colder than our current temperature at Fox Glacier. Since my husband is fundamentally incapable of letting me sit down and relax in the sunshine, he made me walk up and down to the car a few times so that we could all try out various permutations and combinations of warm clothes. Finally we settled on our warmest jackets and when we reached the field where our helicopter was supposed to take off from, our escort asked us if we weren't too warm because the glacier was almost exactly the same temperature. So S and I thankfully ditched our jackets. The kids refused so we let them be.
This was the tiny helicopter that we flew in.
Ads was super excited, especially as he sat next to the pilot. The latter kept up a running commentary but honestly, the bird was so noisy I couldn't hear much even with the headphones. Y was terrified, cried a bit and buried her head in my lap as soon as we were seated.
The glacier. Never seen one before and was quite thrilled to see it did actually look like a river of ice.
Us playing in the snow. It was pretty difficult to put one step forward in front of another. The kids loved pelting each other and us with snowballs and our pilot obligingly clicked lots of pictures.
The view of the glacier descending into a rainforest and in the distance you can see the coast.
Before we knew it, we were back on solid ground with Ads clamouring "Amma, can we go again? Please?". We ate a big lunch and headed back to our rooms for a nice long afternoon nap. The kids woke up and played on the trampoline while S and I sipped chai and sat in the sunshine. We walked around, looked at the pet alpacas and goats, ran away from a friendly dog that was following us :) That is, I walked serenely while throwing looks of deep disgust at the rest of my dog-phobic family who were running helter-skelter!
The weird part of the day was S coming back after buying takeout dinner for us and telling me that he met a friend/batchmate of ours from b-school, at the gas station! Ah well, NZ is a popular holiday destination for Indians and it is indeed a very small world. The other interesting thing that happened on this day was that try as we might, we could not connect my phone to the free wi-fi network. At the same time, I found a feedback form (from Tourism New Zealand) in the apartment which asked me to rate this property and we were asked to hand it over at the reception. Now I wrote a glowing review of the place and when S went to the reception to complain about the wifi, he took the form and handed it over. The guy was so touched with my review that he gave S his laptop to use and surf the net :))
When we came back to India, one of the first things I did was go to tripadvisor and give my review/rating of all the properties we visited. I use the Internet so much for planning my travel (and for everything else) that increasingly I feel I need to 'give back' a little of what I take from it :)