The time has come to leave Wanaka. There is much to do here, but I am exhausted and cannot do it justice. Instead, I pack my bags and walk a few kilometres to the main road. Here, after much waiting around, I manage to hitch a lift 300km from Wanaka to Franz Josef, via Lake Hawea.
I am too tired to remember my ride’s name, which is rare for me, but he is a lovely man and we talk of professional wrestling and his aspirations as both a golfer and manager of a dairy farm. Partway to the glacier, he stops to fish for salmon. Naturally.
By the time we reach the town of Franz Josef, I have just enough time to discover that my Ice Climbing tour will not be running this weekend (not enough people have been foolish enough to pay for something so expensive) and check into the YHA, where I meet Lucas – a great German man, who hitched the same route as me today.
That night, we team up with an equally lovely man called Tom, who was Lucas’ ride and head out drinking. We get discounted drinks because we are locals. Or rather, we have borrowed a local’s loyalty card. I smoothly lie about working in the local hostel; “I was only passing through, but I just fell in love with the glacier”. I have yet to even see the glacier…
…and when I do, I do not fall in love.
Having cancelled my ice climbing tour of the glacier, I hire a bike the next morning and cycle there instead. What I see does not warm my heart.
To me, Franz Josef glacier looks lie a dying animal. Withdrawing into the mountains, cowering even, it gushes salty grey blood as team after team of hikers descend upon it from helicopters. It is disappearing, fast. Every year, it slips farther and farther back – even now, it is barely visible compared to just a few years earlier.
Oddly heavy of heart, I cycle back to the hostel, drop off the bike and join Lucas and Tom for the next leg of my journey. I would dearly like to climb the glacier, perhaps the nearly Fox Glacier, but money is tight and time is ticking.
I must make it to Nelson.