The noise from helicopter tours is incessant in this town. The Thing to do is heli-hike on the glacier so there are helicopters flying around all day. It is ridiculously expensive for a very short amount of time. And since we have already done a glacier hike in Argentina, we are less than enthusiastic.
Instead, we hiked to the viewpoint of the Franz Josef glacier. The view was from quite a distance, as the glacier has receded from the lookout point. Before 2020, you could continue the walk on a trail up the riverbed but it has been since washed away.
The Māori name for the glacier is Ka Roimata O Hine Hukatere, the tears of the avalanche girl. The legend tells of Hine Hukatere, a strong and fearless girl who loved climbing in the mountains. One day she persuaded her lover, Tawe, to climb with her. Tawe was less experienced in the mountains but went along so that he could be with his beloved. Disaster struck when Tawe slipped at the head of the valley and fell to his death. Grief-stricken, Hine Hukatere’s tears flowed down the mountainside. The gods froze her tears of aroha (love) in the form of the glacier as a reminder of her grief.
Peter’s Pool is a kettle lake; a depression or hole in an outwash plain formed by retreating glaciers. They are formed when a chunk of ice (serac) detaches from a glacier and becomes partially buried in the sediments. When the ice melts, a small kettle lake is formed. We had a nice, clear day today, and were able to see great reflections in the lake.
Lake Wombat, another kettle lake, was a lovely if slightly steep walk through Rimu forest. There were lots of birds to serenade us. When we arrived we were the only ones there – so peaceful.
After dinner, The Terrace Walk took us through a podocarp hardwood forest. This is a short track just outside of town where we saw glow worms living among the tree trunks and fallen logs at the sides of the trail. Their eerie blue light became very apparent when we turned off our flashlights.
Glow worms are not worms, but the maggots of a fungus gnat Arachnocampa luminosa. The larva use their twinkling lights to attract small flying insects and entrap them in their sticky threads. The Maori call glowworms titiwai, which means ‘lights reflected in the water’. Most of the larger glow worm caves are on the north island. Here in the south, the larva are typically found in the rainforest or in man-made tunnels. December to March, during the mating season, is the best time to see the largest colonies, so we are pretty lucky to see so many here in November. There were many lights along the path, but near impossible to photograph.