From Hokitika, we continued making our way southward down the western coast of the South Island. Before long, we reached glacier country and the rainiest parts of the island. Small towns boast their rainfall—nine meters per year, 11 meters per year, 14 meters per year. Its the heavy rainfall, cold temperatures, and proximity to the ocean that allow the glaciers to expand and contract faster than most.
We arrived at Franz Josef early in the day, planning to hike a few kilometers up the valley to check out the base of the glacier. It was, no surprise, raining. We had a drizzly view of the glacier, but the opportunity to fully experience the effects of water on the landscape—cascades everywhere!
Hiking up the valley offered more waterfalls than I've ever seen in one place. Spinning 360 degrees, we could count six, ten, sometimes 12 waterfalls within eyesight at once. The glacier itself was a little underwhelming; have you seen a large, dirty hunk of snow at the side of the road? It didn't look too distinct from that. But the roaring riverbed, basaltic cliffs, and waterfalls that wouldn't quit—totally worth a hike that left us both drenched.