Glaciers in a Rainforest


It’s hard to believe that the trail pictured above leads to a glacier, but if you look right beneath the blue circle of sky, you’ll see the Franz Josef Glacier — smack dab in the middle of a rainforest.

John and I walked the 45-minute trail leading up to the glacier which changed radically from bush straight out of Jurassic Park to the rocky wasteland carved out by the glacier.


Waterfalls of varying sizes dropped down from the mountaintops to feed the Waiho River running through the glacier-made gorge.


The glacier perches on high between two peaks, a blue-green block of ice carving it’s way across the millenia.


Back in the little town of Franz Josef, named after the Austrian emperor as is the glacier, we enjoyed a nice soak in the hot pools.


Just south of Franz Josef lies another glacier, the Fox, which unbelievably resides at the end of this jungle road.


It does rain in the rainforest and the rain descended just as we reached the trail leading to the Fox Glacier. The clouds were hanging so low and thick that the glacier wasn’t visible from a lookout point along the way. We opted to stay dry and warm and passed on the trek to the Fox Glacier.

Driving along the West Coast, we made it to Haast for the night, a small town named after the German explorer, Julius Haast, who applied the emperor’s name to the glacier back in 1865.

I like the Māori name for the glacier in the rainforest — Ka Roimata o Hinehukatere — which means “The tears of Hinehukatere.”

Local legend has it that Hinehukatere loved climbing in the mountains and persuaded her lover, Wawe, to climb with her. Wawe enjoyed climbing, but was a less experienced climber than Hinehukatere. On a trek up the mountain, an avalanche killed Wawe and Hinehukatere was so broken hearted that her tears flowed down the mountain and froze to form the glacier.


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