On the Road: Taking on New Zealand’s Wild West Coast

After a day and night in Christchurch, it was time to pick up our Jucy Condo campervan and get on the road.  We were quite nervous about driving on the “wrong side” of the road, but we got used to it more quickly than expected and proceeded without incident.  (Those right turns remained terrifying throughout the trip, though!)

From Christchurch, we headed west through Arthur’s Pass then south to Hokitika and on to Franz Josef.  After overnighting in Franz Josef, we spent the next day hiking Fox Glacier.  After reading reviews for both glaciers, we chose Fox based on comments from previous hikers stating it is a bit harder and the guides go off the beaten trail – er, ice path – instead of staying on predefined routes.

Our guide, a Kiwi, was very experienced and knowledgeable.  Learning the history of the glacier and the dramatic ways in which it has changed over the years added to our appreciation of the enormous mass we were exploring.

Perhaps surprisingly, I didn’t find my time on the glacier to rise to the level of one of the most amazing things I’ve ever done.  That said, we enjoyed our guide, fellow hikers and the trip very much, and I would recommend it to others visiting the South Island.  It also didn’t hurt that the weather was in our favor, as the sun shined all day.

UPDATE:  Unfortunately, due to changing conditions, hiking on the glaciers is no longer permitted.  Franz Josef actually stopped offering hikes shortly before our visit, and Fox Glacier ended its tours soon thereafter.  Hikes to the face of the glaciers, as well as heli-hikes, are offered; more information can be found here and here.


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