Franz Josef glacier is located on the West Coast of New Zealand. It is known as Kā Roimata o Hinehukatere or Tears of the Avalanche Girl. According to Maori legend, Avalanche Girl lost her lover when he fell to his death during a hike. The devastated girl's many tears formed the glacier.
I'd be willing to wager that this tale isn't true, but one thing is for sure, Franz Josef Glacier is an icy phenomenon that offers a feeling of other-worldliness and wonderment that I have not experienced anywhere else.
The morning of the guided ice tour, we got an early start. We started off by getting outfitted (jacket, boots and equipment) for the four hour trek. Naturally, they did not have boots that fit me. Apparently, not many children do this hike. The solution was to have me layer pairs of socks until the boots were snugger. Have you ever tried to hike, for four hours, on ice, with seven pairs of socks on, in boots that are still too big? No? You don't say.
After the gear situation was sorted, as best as possible, we were driven to the Franz Josef car park. From there, the glacier looked deceivingly close. However, it was actually about a 40 minute walk. Lucky for us, it started to rain just as the walk commenced. As we approached the face of the glacier, an enormous chunk of ice crumbled. The guide didn't flinch, but the rest of the group was a little spooked. We weren't going to let a little avalanche stop us though. Onwards we went. No turning back. The hike was challenging, especially with ill-fitting gear, but having the opportunity to slide down crevasses, explore ice caves/tunnels, navigate tight squeezes and meet an alpine parrot (who knew how to unzip backpacks and steal hikers' lunches) made it all worthwhile!