A cruise down the west coast
Trip Start Jan 11, 2005
57Trip End Nov 29, 2005
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The first big stop I made was in Punakaki. It is a beautiful "town" in the middle of nowhere. It is known for its rock formations called the Pancake Rocks. The formation is incredible on its own but even more incredible at high tide. The limestone has been worn away from the Tasman Sea making huge holes within the rock formations. At high tides, these holes become blowholes and push water into the air. Really quite spectacular
I moved on to a little place called Hokitika, which is a small town known for jade and greenstone. It was so small that on a Monday night the bar in town closed at 10:00. So much for a night out there during the week. It rained the day I came into town but managed to stop for a beautiful sunset over the beach. At one point, the sun was setting and there was a rainbow in between the colors of it. I spent a lot of time on the beach admiring the driftwood and driftwood statues that were leftovers from a recent beach party. It was a beautiful city but it was time to move on to the glaciers.
I decided to skip over Franz Josef glacier and go on to Fox glacier to do my climb. I woke up early in the morning to get a full day hike in on the glacier with tour guide et al
We finally made it to the base of the glacier and it was time to put our ice clamps on. As we were putting it on, you could hear rocks and landslides from the glacier moving. Everyone just kind of moved a little faster, hoping to get out of rock-away alley just a bit quicker. Just to let you know how weird they are, you have to remember to put your whole foot down walking. You basically stomp up and down. No heel-to-toe, no tip toes. Full out stomp for the next 8 hours. We started climbing up the glacier as our guide used his ice pick to make stairs for us
Being the cold one I am, I managed to have only 5 layers of clothes on and my mittens. Just to let you know what everyone else was wearing - it was t-shirts. The more we climbed, the cooler it got. There were caverns, ice caves, deep canyons, waterfalls, and ice pools. To make things even better, there were other groups on the glacier but you felt like you were just by yourself with your group. As we went further up, the terrain got tougher. Jason, our guide, had to pick more steps and we still ended up acting like gymnasts going from step to step. Thank goodness that I am so limber in my old age. We hit the pinnacle of our day about 1/4 of the way up the glacier. It was now time to go down.
Going down is about 10 times worse than climbing up. Not only is it harder on your knees, but you can see how far you are going to fall if you slip. I started to just close my eyes, pray I wouldn't fall and hope that our 90 lb guide could carry my down if I did. I managed to slip only a couple of times and made it down safely. My day of hiking the glacier was done and I was a bit tired, but moreover I was thankful for everything that I got to see and do. It was a good way to say good-bye to the west coast.