Backpacking in New Zealand: Franz Josef Township

Backpacking in New Zealand: Franz Josef Township

Backpacking in New Zealand: Franz Josef Township

The word “Township” has always confused me in life, and it wasn’t until 2010 that I thought I knew what it meant. I heard reports from people going to South Africa to watch the World Cup and they said they were visiting “townships”, which I seen as slums or working class black or white areas. In fact I think they are only black areas in South Africa, but I could be wrong.


Then in New Zealand for the second time, in October, I found myself staying a couple of nights at Franz Josef “Township”, which isn’t really a slum or a working class suburb. It’s more (or maybe less) of a custom built settlement to accommodate the many travellers and tourists that want to visit the area, due to the impressive glaciers nearby. None more so than the popular Franz Josef Glacier.


So from the i-Site in Christchurch I found out about a hostelry known as Glow Worm CottagesGlow Worm Cottages, in Franz Josef Township, and agreed to spend two nights there. I had also booked a bus from Greymouth down to Franz Josef Township. 


On arrival at Franz Josef Township, it was dark, isolated, dreary, misty, foggy, cloudy, wet. All the emotional baggage you need to help you settle in. I’d far rather land somewhere in these surroundings than in sunshine and fake smiles, as life has taught me so many times. In dull-ness we need to make our own smiles.


And I was dropped off my my Atomic Shuttle bus right outside the (hidden by mist) Glow Worm Cottages, where I was the first to check into my dorm room of 6, I was in dorm 2. The staff there were one Irish guy from Dublin and a lady from Sheffield in England. It was great to arrive in what seemed like some kind of dreamy wilderness. Actually that’s exactly what Franz Josef is.


There are two main streets, the one which my cottage was on, and the next one up, which was the iSite, the bus terminal, the Glacier treks etc. In this instance due to my whirlwind trip round the south island, I had booked my Glacier hike in advance, which cost me $165 for an 8 hour day. I think it was actually about 9 hours in the end, but money wouldn’t be as important as memory in this instance. Franz Josef was the first glacier I had ever seen in life. And not just seen but hiked up it.


However more on that melarkey elsewhere – the Township of Franz Josef basically relies on tourism, therefore you fell quite safe there amongst the locals.


Glow Worm Cottages.


My dorm – room 2.


The car park.


The kitchen. Every day at 6 pm was free soup!


The lounge.


The pool room.


The dreamy dreary mountains in the distance from the street I stayed on.


Another view.


My local shop (for 2 days or so).


The petrol station.


The main street.


The church. An Anglican – cool looking or what?


My local pub (for 2 nights). The Blue Ice Bar.


Another view into them there mountains.


After two days in the remote cold, wet wilderness of Franz Josef Township, it was time to move elsewhere, not before the southern sun had reared it’s ugly head, allowing my wet clothes to dry in the heat as I waited for my mid morning bus to a Salmon Farm, then onwards to Wanaka and Queenstown. Three more locations for destiny to take me on another turn. Or probably not.


With Angie from Hong Kong before we travelled onwards…


Me by my bus bidding a fond farewell to this beautiful little town – Franz Josef Township.

Population – 333
Nationalities Met – New Zealand, Israeli, Irish, English, Dutch, German, Hong Kongese
Transport Used – Atomic Shuttle Bus, Naked Bus, Franz Josef Glacier Bus
Strange Currencies – well used to the New Zealand dollars and cents by now

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