Woke up feeling shattered - not enough sleep, and I am getting slammed by a cold. A long bus ride through mountains and along valleys to the west coast - it was beautiful, but I wasn't in a very appreciative mode. As we left Queenstown there wasn't a cloud in the sky. As we crossed the mountains and approached the coast a few white puffy clouds appeared. As we approached the glaciers the clouds descended and everything became very gray. We stopped for ten minutes at Fox glacier - I hope that I'll be able to get back there in the next couple days to at least hike to the face.
In the village of Franz Josef I checked into my hostel and asked about the possibility of a helicopter tour. The receptionist called and there was one leaving in five minutes. So I dumped my stuff and ten minutes later was climbing into a helicopter (a first for me). The helicopter ride (like the stunt plane and hang glider from yesterday) was smoother than I expected. The clouds were to low over the Fox glacier so we explored the Franz Josef glacier, Mt. Cook, and the surrounding peaks, ridges, and glaciers. Landed on the top of the Franz Josef glacier and had ten or twenty minutes to walk around on an absolutely flawless sheet of white. Plenty of sun up there above the clouds. There are some spectacular 100+ foot pinnacles of ice and just surreal frozen landscapes on the glacier. Forty minutes after take off we were landing back in the gloom of Franz Josef. I've now done three completely new forms (to me) of air travel in two days - stunt plane, hang glider, and a helicopter - to bad there isn't hot air ballooning available here.
Spent the rest of the afternoon and the evening doing laundry and sitting by the fire reading. Had an early diner, watched the video "Born on the Fourth of July" and gratefully crawled into to bed.