Sunday, 11 November 2007

Walking on a mint

Everyone was telling us that the West Coast was going to be rainy. It wasn't! Most days were bright and sunny, and we started getting our Fiji tans back a bit :-) Perfect conditions for a brisk walk up a glacier, don't you think?

We did, and stopped off in Fox Glacier for a guided full day walk in the safe hands of Fox Alpine Guides. Or perhaps not so safe if your guide has a stinking hangover... seems to be a bit of a common habit amongst Kiwis, that.

So we rock up at 09.00 and immediately bump into Shell and Pete, who we had previously briefly met in Blenheim. Now we have English pals to do the walk with - excellent! Otherwise we would have had to hang around with Germans, Americans, and - even worse - some Dutch guys ;-)

I don't know what you think a glacier looks like, but you'd think it would be kinda like ice and snow and stuff, right? These things are dirty! As they treacle down the valley they pull rocks off the walls then they fall into crevasses and get crushed into dust and mud and glacier flour, so you end up with crazy marbling and big grey bits and chunks of rock all over it. Kinda cool to see.

This is at the terminal end of it - the higher you go up towards the snowy bit at the top, the more it cleans up, and you can see, and get into some amazing blue ice caves and touch glass smooth ice walls.
We were walking for about 6 hours in total, of which about 4 were on the ice. The best bits were the gnarly crevasse area towards the end where we had to follow exactly in our guide's footsteps or face a certain slow death by crushing/suffocation in a crevasse (you breathe out, slip down, then your chest can't expand to let you breathe in again) - obviously we survived that bit; and then Debs had a go at leading the group back down the glacier, ice axe in hand, swinging away in a comedy manner at the ice, but generally doing a pretty solid job. Maybe this is an alternative career for her? Only time will tell.

Nicely weary at the end of the day we had a celebratory beer in the pub in town then cooked up a huge spaghetti putanesca for supper. Then bed to sleep the sleep of the righteous.

BTW, we had a hard time choosing between Fox and the other local glacier, Franz Josef. All the tourist information centres seem to push people towards Franz Josef, and it's by far the more commercial of the two, with a limit of 1000 visitors a day, while Fox only has 400. Also, trips onto Fox are cheaper, and the glacier is larger. You do the math.



Mel said...

Nice - been following your blog. As a kiwi, I haven't been to the glaciers yet - it is good to know which one to head for when I make it over that way. Drop me a line if you are in Dunedin and eager to try some of the local drop ;)

Ben and Debs said...

Thanks Mel,

Glad we could help - they're deffo worth a visit.

We would love to try the local tipple in Dunedin - we should be there in about a week and a half. Send us your email address and we'll get in touch.

Debs and Ben