Leaving Lake Mahinapua all a little worse for wear the next morning, we made a brief stop at the lake itself for some photos before continuing on towards Franz Josef in Westland National Park. That afternoon some of us went kayaking on Lake Mapourika and paddled the 7km across the lake to take advantage of the waterways on the opposite side where we navigated our way along the narrow channels amongst the rainforest. The lake itself has reflective qualities due to tannin in the water, this means that when the wind is gentle the black water is smooth and calm just like a mirror reflecting the nearby mountains and rainforest.
The next day it was time to tackle the main attraction of Franz Josef, the glacier itself. Unfortunately parts of the glacier had been closed in recent weeks as a main ice bridge had melted and collapsed meaning that it was impossible to pass. So instead of doing a full day glacier hike as planned, we had to take a helicopter part way up the glacier past the ice bridge where we could then walk around the glacier for 3 hours before heading back down in the helicopter again. So we donned our crampons once up on the glacier and set off following our expert guide Sam. He began by cutting steps into the ice for us to climb and then led us in and around the ice caves, pinnacles and crevices as we climbed, squeezed and slid along the ice. After all our hard work up on the glacier we were able to relax in the natural hot pools back down in town where we stayed for the next 3 hours hopping from one pool to the next as the temperatures ranged from 36-40 degrees. Once we were suitably relaxed and wrinkly we spent the evening enjoying all you can eat pizza back in the hostel bar. This has to be the nicest place we have stayed on the whole trip. Each dorm room of 4 had an ensuite bathroom, tea making facilities, toiletries, and even Sky TV! Luxury compared to some of the others and we were sad to leave this behind.
As we left Franz Josef early the next morning our driver noticed a TV crew filming nearby. He challenged those on board to flash as much flesh as possible to get their attention. Some people obliged, and it kind of back-fired on them as the coach got pulled over by the presenter and we all ended up making an appearance on breakfast TV (fully clothed)! Eventually leaving Franz Josef we stopped off at Curly Tree Whitebait shop to sample the local catch cooked in a traditional way as a whitebait pattie, served with garlic salt, lemon juice and mint sauce, yum! Next was Lake Matheson to catch the perfect mirror reflection of Mount Cook on the water giving picture postcard views. The scenery was stunning as we travelled further inland leaving the coastline behind along the Haast Pass following the Haast River, with so many bright blue lakes and gushing waterfalls. As we approached Wanaka we stopped at Lake Hawea which was just beautiful. The blue turquoise water and lush green fields framed by the nearby mountain ranges made the perfect backdrop for a skydive.
Beth and Nicole and I had signed up in the morning and that afternoon as we came into Wanaka we were dropped off at the airfield and began to get kitted out ready for the jump. However, as we were waiting we were told that it had to be cancelled as the weather was changing over the drop zone and some grey clouds were moving in. We were naturally very disappointed as we had worked ourselves up to do it that day as we drove from Franz Josef. So we went to the hostel and checked in with the hope that we might be able to skydive the following morning before we left Wanaka. Morning came and we got excited again as the weather looked perfect, blue skies with only a few clouds. However, when we rang the company we were again told that the weather wasn’t right. Disappointed again, we got our bags together to check out of the hostel and make the drive to Queenstown. Just as we were about to leave we were told the real reason why we couldn’t skydive. Someone had died the day before around the time when we were waiting to jump. It was one of the cameramen who jump with the tandem skydivers to film them. Apparently his main parachute and his reserve chute had failed, he had panicked and not followed procedure and landed on a nearby golf course. We were a little shaken as this could have been one of our cameramen had we got there an hour earlier like we should have, but we had been delayed leaving Franz Josef by the TV crew. This played on our minds as we made the trip towards Queenstown and some of us questioned whether we would still want to skydive. However, determined not to be put off Beth, Nicole and I were sure we still wanted to try to do it in Queenstown.