Glaciers and Glow Worms
Trip Start Jan 14, 2008
20Trip End Feb 21, 2008
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Since our last blog entry, we've been touring the glacier and driving. I'll tell about the glacier first. We went on "Fox" Glacier. The main reason we did this was that it sounded better then "Franz Josef". Also, it's less commercialized. Anyway, it was very fun. We walked through the rain forest before actually exploring the glacier. Next, our guide cut steps in the ice for us as we walked about with crampons. There were plenty of photo ops. We also were treated to a short explanation of how glaciers work.
Also, we saw a brochure for the "Shotover Canyon Swing", the highest in the world. It looked really scary! For details, see www.canyonswing.co.nz. Anyway, that's about it! Now to my parents...
After a beautiful ride to Greymouth we picked up our Rent-A-Dent, and our perspective changed once again when we got our own wheels. We stopped that night in a large motorcamp and decided we like the smaller, shabby-looking ones best; the people are the friendliest there. Next day we stopped in Hokitika, known for its New Zealand Jade carvings and jewelry sales. By evening we arrived at Fox Glacier.
We had a reservation for a glacier walk, which I'd heard about from Aurelia Kennedy. New Zealand is one of only two places in the world where a glacier flows directly into a rain forest--the other is in Patagonia. As Sidney mentioned, we hiked for an hour or more through the forest before we reached the glacier, and then donned crampons and picked up alpenstocks for our walk on the ice. It was one of the most interesting and exciting things we've done, and definitely worth the cost of the tour.
In the evening we went for a walk outside the Fox Glacier village to see glow worms--a big attraction. It's like fairy land after dark in the forest--you can see them everywhere in dark damp holes under banks and tree trunks. They're actually the larvae stage of a flying insect whose adult life lasts only a few days, and the larvae stage is 9 months. It's the kind of thing Disney would have a field day with, but is much much better in real life.
We've been enjoying the media coverage of the US elections--the newspapers do a very good job of explaining the electoral process here in the states and the implications of different wins and losses, along with background on the candidates. Most of the coverage comes from the west coast--LA, typically, although there has been some contribution from the Washington Post. The NZ press does not seem to like Clinton much ("Hillary" here refers to the late Sir Ed), because they keep running the most unflattering pictures! We have heard from Dave Perrin that Clinton beat Obama in FL, but that hasn't hit the papers here yet. The Kiwis seem rather amused by it all, and Sidney is very impressed with how knowledgable they are. We knew before we finished the Heaphy Track which Democrat had won SC, because there was a hiker at an overlook with a paper, and the front page of the World section blasted the news in big letters.
Happy belated 70th birthday to Jerry Baumgartner.
Today we said goodby to the west coast and hopefully its famed wet weather for a while. What a change it is to leave the heavily forested rainforest and trade it in for arid grassland with remarkable mountain views. I use the word "remarkable" for that is the name of the mountain range around Queenstown and Wanaka, "the Remarkables." It is classic Lord of the Rings territory with stunning views in all directions of two to three thousand meter peaks. It is also interesting to see how things have changed since I was here almost twenty years ago. Much of the road we traveled today was a dusty dirt and gravel road when I first road my bike down it years ago. Also, we must have passed fifty cyclists in the last several days. I don't remember seeing more than ten in a month on the first trip and none of them wore helmets (including me!) back then.
Back to the glaciers. What a cool place to go. (pardon my pun.) For me, after spending so many years in the guiding business, it is always hard to fork over the cash for a guided anything. My hat goes off to the Fox Glacier Guides. They did an outstanding job getting a large number of people onto a limited amount of glacier space without us getting the feeling of bumping into other groups at every turn. The glacier itself was very impressive and makes me want to reread all the mountaineering adventure books I've ever read. I now know what an "icefall" really looks like and what it feels like to look up at the "seraks" (not sure how to spell that one).
Tomorrow we're going to take a quick cruise through Queenstown which is the Gatlinburg of adreniline sports for NZ and probably the world. If you can dream up some crazy thing to give you a rush, they've probably been doing it in Queenstown for a decade already. We'll pass on the parachute bungy jump, the canyon swing (that's on a 200 meter rope), and the numerous other wacky things, but it is a beautiful town and one not to pass completely by. Then we're off to Te Anau where we'll get set for our next tramping adventures and probably where you'll hear from us again. -- jp