When I visited New Zealand a few years back, I had the opportunity to visit Franz Josef glacier, and I’ll never forget it. We stayed at a rainforest lodge, full of lush tropical trees and flowers, equipped with a hot tub on the top deck. It was paradise! The morning of the expedition, we drove a few blocks to the helicopter company, where we signed waiver forms and received all of our equipment. I’m talking snow pants, heavy coats, beanies, and boots! My adrenaline was pumping; we were about to hike a glacier! The wait seemed like forever as my anticipation rose for our turn to load into the helicopter. The winds were blowing and the leaves were stirring from all of the rotating propellers. The helicopters made a few trips to grab all of the hikers, and when it was finally my turn, I couldn’t believe it! As we ascended upwards, the surroundings were blue and icy. Glaciers all around. At the top of one of the glaciers was a giant waterfall, providing fresh flowing water to the surroundings. It was so unreal and I had never seen anything like it.
Once we landed, we were instructed on how to use our snow shoes and poles, and it’s not as easy as it looks! Once we all got the hang of walking, we started going upwards. There were tunnels and mazes made of ice that towers above you, all with varying patterns of frozen ice. There were streams of fresh, pure glacier water racing through the curves in the ice and into little waterfalls and pools. We took the opportunity to refill our water bottles every chance we could! The taste and temperature were both so pure and crisp.
The biggest challenge I had was trying to make my way down a slippery tunnel using only a rope as a guide and anchor. Trying to gain traction with your Wolverine-esque shoes was near impossible, so I had a pretty decent bruise on my knee for a week or so, but it was one hundred percent worth it.
It took a few hours of hiking to travel up and down the glacier, but towards the end, I uncovered another secret from the glaciers. The mud that has been accumulating on these glaciers has so many beneficial qualities for your skin! Our leader encouraged me to fill up a water bottle with the mud and have a spa day. My skin was glowing! A mud mask will never mean the same thing to me again.
After another helicopter ride back, we made our way back to our rainforest getaway. The first thing I did was throw on a swimsuit and crack open a craft beer from a local New Zealand brewery and relax to the sounds of the birds. It was a beautiful day to be alive.