It turns out we were right and the cloud cover prevented us from completing our scheduled glacier helicopter ride and hike. However, the glacier guides at Franz Josef also run a glacier valley hike that doesn’t involve any ice time and we were able to join that this morning.
While we were disappointed not to be on the ice, it was a fantastic time! We walked through the rainforest, saw waterfalls and even caught a glimpse of the glacier through the clouds. And the tour gave us waterproof boots, pants and coat, which allowed us to wade in the river instead of the road whenever we wanted, which was really awesome.
According to our guide, 60% of heli hike tours are cancelled, because the helicopter has to fly at certain heights for noise control, and those heights are often not accessible due to weather. He did a tour on Christmas Eve, and they were stuck up on the glacier for an extra couple of hours because it was too cloudy for the helicopter to come earlier. So we’re just feeling blessed that we even got to see it at all.
From here we saw some kiwi birds at the West Coast Wildlife Center (photos not allowed), and explored all the gift shops in town.
This was not a bad start to 2017 at all!