Franz Josef Glacier

From Haast we drove north along the coastline toward our next night’s destination, the tiny town and glacier named Franz Josef.

Along the way we saw dozens of construction projects where they were fixing the highway from the recent floods. Torrential rains and raging flash floods had washed away sides of mountains and sections of the highway as it wound its way past rocky cliffs and over creeks. The Kiwis call these slips. As in “[orange triangle with exclamation mark] Slips Ahead”. These and traditional one lane bridges where you wait for oncoming traffic to clear kept us entertained and me wide awake at the wheel.

We took a slight diversion to visit the famous Lake Matheson, the most photographed lake in the country. On a good day the snow clad Mount Cook rears up dramatically over the lake and at an even better moment the lake obliges by being perfectly still to create a beautiful mirror-like reflection of the mountain. No such luck with mountain or lake but we took a beautiful walk around the lake and a very nice lunch at the park cafe. And I got a really nice photo of a fiddlehead!

Had we been more dedicated and luckier, like Gary, here’s what it could have looked like (thanks,

Franz Josef Glacier was impressive, not because of the bit of craggy ice on the mountain side slowly succumbing to gravity but because of how pitiful it looked compared to a few years ago. Long before Vivian or Evan bring their kids here, this glacier will be just a memory and a few old signs with photographs of what it used to look like. A glacier museum like a museum for dinosaur bones.

We spent a few hours hiking up a long and wide glacial valley to the receding glacier – a few decades earlier we could have been lazier and just looked at it out of our cars in the parking lot.

On the walk back we admired the steep sides of the valley. The kids horsed around on rocks beautifully eroded by the glacier. And Evan made us trek down to the stream of ice melt, almost white as milk to see if it really was cold. It was.

Later that night we went to the woods to see glow worms, came back to our Airbnb and cooked salmon, and spent the rest of the night and next morning ridding the house of the smell of cooking salmon. The house, for some strange reason, really grabbed on to cooking odors like Trump on pussy, in spite of being surrounded by large windows that opened to a beautiful yard. Jo finally won, as she usually does. Her secret? Slow-brewed cranberry tea with fresh lemon.

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