Franz Josef, New Zealand October 21-28, 2007
We spent the last week on the phone with tour operators coordinating the logistics and approvals to film a Helicopter Ice Hiking segment for television. Thanks to The Helicopter Line, we finally got everything in order and set out to Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers to undertake this assignment. The Glow Worm Cottages were nice enough to accommodate us at a special rate and allowed us to overstay the booking since it ended up taking a week for the weather to clear enough to get our filming done. This left us with a lot of free time in Franz Josef because the helicopters don’t fly in bad weather and the glaciers were cloud covered the first five days we were in town. You know it’s time to leave when the lady in the supermarket asks when we moved to town, assuming we’re now locals.
Franz Josef is essentially one street about 3 blocks long and littered with tour operators, a couple of bars and a few restaurants. We had time to see them all. Finally on day five the weather cleared enough to take our first flight for the hiking segment.
All we had to do was put on three layers of clothes, hang fifteen pounds of camera gear, mics, cables, battery packs and peripherals all over our bodies, then hike two hours around untouched glacier without falling into holes of melted ice.
Everyone knows how athletic and coordinated we are so we knew this would be an interesting undertaking. The following day we managed to shoot the fly-by footage and low level passes over the glaciers at high speed. This was exciting stuff for us, especially since our pilot Neil has done lots of television filming in helicopters and knew just what to do. The video segment (currently in editing through December) should be ready in early 2008.
Despite the adrenaline and excitement of the helicopter tours, one of the most memorable parts of Franz Josef was learning to make wood fired pizza from scratch in a tiny pot belly stove. During the previous five rainy days, the center of attention in the hostel quickly became Rob a.k.a. “Irish”, Sebastian a.k.a “Germany” and Steve a.k.a “The Butcher of Bulgaria” who is actually from Oz. Introductions were made during their afternoon monopoly tournament where dozens of empty beer bottles cluttered the playing area and you could barely see the game pieces. They spent the evening making hand made pizza and cooking them slowly over the fire. By the end of the evening, Steve had made nine pizzas and the guys had consumed fifty-one beers. The kitchen cleaners the next morning found it hilarious that not only had they filled the glass recycle bin but every available shelf space nearby with empty beer bottles from the previous day’s escapades. We were so enthralled by the process we bought the ingredients the next day and insisted Steve show us how to do it.
Everyone watched in envy and Steve was forced to repeat the lesson for more German girls yet again the next night. Not a bad way to make friends, huh? We thanked them on departure night by cooking up a feast of pasta, roast chicken and salad enjoying it family style together. Little do we know at this time that the legacy of “The Butcher of Bulgaria” will return in our path in the weeks ahead.