New Zealand day 8: Fox glacier

It would be another eventful day. The destination was Fox glacier, one of the two main glaciers in Westland. We had booked helicopter ride to the top of Fox Glacier. We started early morning from Haast and it was a pleasant driving for 2 hours on the scenic road devoid of any vehicles.

View from Mt. Cook
Since there was some time before the helicopter ride, we went to our hotel (Rainforest Motel) that was nearby. The rooms as expected were not ready but the lady in the reception promised to get it done by 11AM when we come back from helicopter ride. That was very nice of her considering the check-in time of 2PM.

Glacier Helicopters in Fox township
There are few ways to enjoy the Fox glacier. Cheapest option is to hike to see the mouth of the glacier. That does not cost any money. Another option is to hike to the mouth itself with the help of the guide. The expensive option is to ride on an helicopter that lands on top of the glacier. There is no way one can trek on the glacier. It requires mountaineering skills and the glacier is extremely volatile and not safe. Being normal human beings, we chose the helicopter ride. Not everyday we get an opportunity to stand on top of a glacier.

Fox township
For us, it was our first helicopter ride and we were excited. As part of pre boarding we were briefed by the staff on dos and don’ts of the ride. Apart from camera, no other bags or equipments were allowed. Not even selfie stick (we did not had any!). Exactly on time, we were taken to the helipad where we waited for couple of mins before our helicopter landed.

"Our" chopper
It was too noisy inside the chopper. In order to hear the instructions from the pilot, we had to put our headsets. That reduced the noise a lot.

Fox glacier
I was astonished at the speed which the helicopter gained the altitude. You do not experience that in an airplane but helicopter provides the raw feel of it. Very soon we had crossed the temperate rain forests, grasslands and were flying over the fox glacier. We were astonished to see mountain goats walking on the glacier!!

A circle of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman was made. It was a treat to watch these huge mountains. We had not seen those views even from Mt. Cook village due to cloudy weather.

Hooker lake, Pukaki lake and Mt. Cook village!!
The helicopter then landed on a flat land above the glacier. It was the safe spot where there was no movement of the ice. It can be called as an ice field rather than a glacier. But it provided amazing views of the surroundings.

Ice fields of Fox glacier
It was photo time. It was great that weather was on our side that day. Not a common sight in Westland!! 

Family photograph!!
Tanu was super excited and jumped with joy in the ice field.

All nice things should end and we had to climb back to helicopter and within few minutes we were back at the base.

The vast snow fields of Fox glacier
Our room was ready when we came back to the hotel. Dumping our bags, we set out for Matheson lake. It was the place to see the reflection of Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman. But our luck with weather ran out that time as the mountains were covered by clouds and the lake was rough due to wind. To really understand how it would have looked in clear weather, just click the link here.

Lake Mathesan
The weather remained in that state for the entire day. We were lucky for the helicopter ride to the glacier.

View of Fox glacier
After lunch, Chaya and I decided to hike to see the mouth of the glacier while my mother and Tanu decided to relax in room. We drove for about 6 km to reach the parking lot. On the way, we saw a board mentioning that the glacier was reaching till that point some 200 years back. It is not very far away in time for these glaciers to completely disappear. 

Hike to Fox glacier
It was a simple walk next to the stream for most of the time. The last stretch was very steep but manageable. 

The "last" stretch
The trail ended at the view point where we see the glacier.

Glacier as seen from the view point
Hitch hiking is very common in New Zealand. We had seen many people waving at us throughout our journey for drop but as we could stop as we were running full. At Fox Glacier we met a German and a Canadian trekkers who were looking for a vehicle. They had been hiking for last 2 days. We dropped them to the township.

Stream flowing from glacier. Not very far from Tasman sea!!
Evening was spent walking in the small beautiful town of Fox Glacier. It was a great and memorable day.

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