Walking on Thick Ice

Trip Start Jun 04, 2009
Trip End Sep 06, 2010

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, April 2, 2010

Happy Easter everyone!

I hope you are all comfy in your homes with cups of tea and more chocolate than you could ever need, awaiting a big roast dinner later today. It's all a bit different to our Easter Sunday as I’m writing to you from the car during a massive downpour, it’s been raining hard through the night and I can’t believe there is any rain left in the sky but it keeps coming!  Steve is still in the tent wrapped up warm but I broke about an hour ago and had to make a dash for the toilet despite the weather, on my soaking wet return I was told I was not welcome in the land of the dry and warm anymore so I thought this would be a good opportunity to catch you all up with what we have been doing, while secretly hoping the tent gets washed away with Steve in it to teach him a lesson J!

We finally said our goodbyes to Queenstown and picked up our rental car for the next month a Mitsubishi Lancer, now affectionately called 'Lenny’ by us, who will complete our band of merry travelers and do most of the hard work getting us from Queenstown to Auckland.   I was thrilled to discover from the paperwork that Lenny already has all four corners scratched/bumped/dented which takes a lot of pressure off my parking skills!  Frustratingly however Lenny does not have central locking so we need to check every door, every time we stop and as we have all our worldly possessions on the backseats security is of the utmost importance.  The other problem we face is a lack of music, between the larger towns in New Zealand there is no radio signal so in a 5 hour drive we had radio for all of about 5 minutes.  We have plenty of CD’s and the tape deck also says it is also a 10 disc CD player but for the life of us we cannot figure out how to put in CD’s or locate where else the CD player might be in the car.  It’s a nightmare as we’ve resorted to singing which is not an appealing trait for either of us and the one time we did get radio it was playing Jesus Christ Superstar which made Steve just turn it off again.  We shouldn’t complain though as Lenny seems up for the challenge and has taught me the wonders of driving an automatic.  However Steve did have to explain to me that the car itself is not automatic only the gears which was disappointing as I was looking forward to sitting back for a snooze while Lenny took us where we wanted to go.

Our first stop out of Queenstown was Wanaka where we paid a visit to Puzzling World a mini museum/theme park specializing in illusions and puzzles.  It was really good fun especially the room which had a steeply sloped floor when you walked around so you couldn’t tell what was horizontal anymore, water flowed upwards, pool balls rolled uphill when you released them and the swing hung down at what looked like a very bizarre angle.  It was very clever, more clever than I could understand!  We also had a go at the labyrinth maze they had there which I thought was a great idea to have at a place often used as a break from a long journey, you could get lost in there for hours and cause yourself quite a delay to your journey.  The maze is 1.5km and the average person apparently walks for 4km trying to get out, it’s on two different levels with bridges and lots of dead ends, we had to find all four corners and then the way back to the entrance.  Steve and I decided to stick together and combine our brain power to get us out.  I claim I was the one who found three of the four corners but Steve seems to think that was only because I was walking in front of him.  We survived unscathed in the end but then lost more of our travel time to the room that was filled with little puzzles, just the kind of thing you get at Christmas that no one can figure out.  Our brains clearly think in different ways as I went around picking up all the gadgets deciding I couldn’t do them and moving on until I found the easiest one, Steve on the other hand committed to the hardest one there and refused to budge until he’d figured it out.  Finally we were able to leave again and set our sights on a campsite about an hour away at the head of the Lake.

As we are planning on camping for most of the month and have the luxury of a car to carry our belongings we didn’t see any reason to suffer discomfort so we have an inflatable mattress, duvet and pillows for the tent.  Of course we didn’t ever check the mattress fitted in the tent and inflating it before trying to push it through the door was a plan that was always doomed to failure – and funny photos!  Luckily it did fit in the end and makes for a very comfy nights sleep.  The first night we even watched a movie on the laptop, and you thought we were slumming it!

The following day we drove up through Haast Pass a great road that goes from mountains and lakes through to the sea and beautiful driftwood strewn beaches.  It was a bit drizzly the day we drove but it meant there were beautiful cloud scattered mountains and we stopped for lots of walks to waterfalls and viewpoints regardless.  We finished up the day with a stop at Fox Glacier (the next day we’d be climbing on Franz Josef Glacier).  It was a good walk to the terminal face of the glacier and I attached myself, subtly, to a school party whose teacher was explaining the science behind glaciers (Steve on the other hand already knows everything there is to know about glaciers and filled me in on some further details the teachers neglected to mention!).  We drove to our hostel in Franz for the night, which we splashed out on as we didn’t fancy taking the tent down in the dark the next morning before our hike, and it was well worth the luxury.  There was a HUGE vat of free vegetable soup which we greedily gobbled down four bowls of and then we got to relax in the hot tub after a long day driving. 

The next morning we were up very early to prepare for our glacier hike and the stress of having to leave Lenny and all our belongings for a whole day on the side of the road.  We got to the office and started our rounds collecting all the equipment we needed for the day including waterproof trousers, jacket, hat, gloves, socks, boots and crampons.  However in the room where we were all kitted up and putting our boots on we noticed a man in our group had stripped down to only a pair of very tight bright pink pants!  Thinking either he, or us, had drastically misread the situation we simply watched as he booted up and headed for the bus realizing it was actually his intention to climb the glacier in just a pair of pants!  (Fair play to him he did actually achieve it but you could see he was having second thoughts when everyone else could sit down to eat lunch and he had to stand*).  We had an hours walk to reach the glacier, 6 hours on the ice and an hour back so it was really a long day but one I will never forget. 

This was (another one to add to the list of) the best thing I think we’ve done, completely bizarre terrain and it’s just unimaginable how beautiful the blue ice is especially as its constantly changing.  Our guide was using an ice-pick to carve steps for us and create paths in the glacier that hadn’t been walked on before, the Franz glacier is a very fast moving one so each day they come across new formations to play with.  We were lucky enough to be the first group to go through a new crack, first we had to wait for the guide to pack in a layer of ice to the bottom of the crevasse so we had something to walk on and then we could begin hoisting ourselves up a rope to the crack which was no more than 25cm across so we couldn’t actually stand with our feet facing forwards at all.  I was first and completely wedged in so had to hoist myself up into a slightly wider gap using my shoulders and knees and finally got all the way through.  Steve had to be pushed by the guy behind him as he had too many flapjacks for lunch.  The photos show a lot of the trip but can’t get the point across how massive the terrain was and how every tiny inch of it was beautiful and different to the section next to it.  The other amazing thing about the trip was that I didn’t fall over!  Crampons are the way to go for me in life, I should invest in spikes on my shoes for all occasions to keep me anchored.

After an exhausting day like that we had a little bit of luxury again by staying at a hostel (but camping on the grounds to be pennywise) we still got free soup and hot tub but at a fraction of the price, and that’s how we like to travel.  Another day in transit after that took us up to Hoikatika where there were also excellent driftwood beaches and massive waves.  We dared each other to stand on a log that disappears when the waves reach the beach for the longest before running to escape a soaking, and surprisingly again it wasn’t me walking to the car with wet shoes!  En route to Hoikatika we stopped for lunch at a place affectionately called Pukie where there is a population of two and had a wild possum pie for lunch, which was delicious, we were hoping for a roadkill burger as their specialty but the government had surprisingly put an end to that! A side trip took us to a beautiful blue water gorge that bought back fond memories of Canada and then we found our way to the campsite we are now in that will most likely from today be referred to as ‘The Underwater Campsite’ as the rain is now so thick I can’t see the tent out the window.  However before the rain hit we had a lovely pasta dinner on our stove down by the lakeside, just us and the ducks, a proper camping experience.

With any luck Steve won’t drown in the tent and we’ll be back for another blog soon until then happy travels and Happy Easter to all of you.

Lots of Love,

Amy and Sunk Steve

* Before anyone asks there are no photos of the man in pink pants, trust me it’s a good thing and I didn’t want to encourage him further!
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amysdad on

I particularly loved the glacier photos.

I'm glad you had such a good time in NZ and I was so happy to visit you in October.

Have a great time on the rest of your world tour! Much love Dad.

valfrancisuk on

Brilliant photos - well done you two, onward and upward! It can't rain forever...Good luck and lots of love xx

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