The day of the fox glacier walk. It was titled the 'nimble fox'. I am neither of those things, so for obvious reasons I was slightly nervous about it. Though saying that. I had 'done' everest so 6 hours walking on ice should be a wakl in the park eh? Well anyway, after sliding over on the forst outside the tour place (not a good start), i met the other 4 people in our group, got some waterproof coats, mittens, boots and i deadly looking pair of contraptions called cramp ons that tie to the soles of your boots. With that, we left on the bus to the glacier.
The carpark was deep down inside the valley, between 2 towering cliffs about 200 metres high. In the distance was the terminal face of the glacier. It moves at 2 metres a day, so it is one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world. We approached the temrinal face then began scaling up the cliff face into the temperate rainforest. Similar to the himilayan landscapes, this one had no imagainable scale. The widths and heights of the ice and rocks looked insignificant.... until you saw a little speck of a person walking within them and you realised small looking rocks were 10 metres high, and the valleys were a good couple of miles wide. After a few photo opporutinites, drinking from a glacial stream and crossing a few rope bridges, we secured the cramp ons to our boots and took our first steps onto the glacier. A strange experience walking on solid ice - not just knowing that the ice was 150m deep in some places, but also knowing that if the cramp ons failed we would be sliding quite nicely into a crevass.
Anyhoo, ignoring that fact, we walked up a series of stairs that the guides had cut into the ice. Slightly dirty and brown and they are used constantly, they led up to a small ice peak on the lower section of the glacier. It was here we went off the beaten track. The glacier looked like a rough and stormy sea that had suddely been frozen solid. Huge swathes of clean blue and white ice curved up and around us. We navigated through valleys, tunnels and found a series of underice streams to drink from. The guide cut stairs for us as we went. Every day the landscape changes so paths there one day were gone the next. Although freezing, I could have happily spent a good few hours mroe exploring the hidden coves and alleys between the blue ice. Even the flatter sections had gentle ripples on, like a frozen ocean. Being one of the few glaciers that ends in a temperate climate, there was soemthing especially surreal about standing on a block of ice, surruonded by trees and shrubs. Looking up the glacier to the more unstable sections of ice, we could see the peaks of the mountains, and helicopters circling trying to land on them. We were told the ice we were standing on was anything from 50, to 500 years old, whilst furhter down below our feet it was well over 1000. We spent 5 hours walking the mounds and ditches of the glacier, before making our way down back to solid ground. It posed another question for me.... maybe i could take up a job as a glacier guide!! Only time would tell :D.
From fox, we went on to queenstown - the so called party capital of NZ. Well for one thing, it was definately the most beautiful. Sitting on the shores of a lake (which i cant for the life of me remember the name of), the town was surrounded by the Remarkables mountain ranges. Not especially high, but ti gave the whole town a swiss alps feel. Every where were shops advertising snow boarding and skiing lessons, and buses left regualrly from various points in the city, to the mountains. The waters in the lake were shockingly clear, even in the little winding streams the bottom could be seen. After a brief walk round the town to get my bearings, we went ice skating (obviously). The rink was small but it was very cheap. And there was a Brit who worked there who seemed very glad to see us. The week we were in Queenstown was the winter fest. We went to the Mardi Gras, got a few bits of food, so a few street performers, had a few drinks then went home for a quiet night. All very tame.... and cheap!!
Having very little money left, we had to make our own cheap entertainment - well excluding the gondola ride we went on. Taking us over 500m high onto a mountain that overlooked queenstown and the lake. Once again, the views were quite remarkable. For an extra 12 dollars we got the self proclaiming 'best buffet in new zealand'. And it had to be said, it was one of the better meals we have eaten during the 5 months, especially as the restraunt provided panoramic views of the lakes and the moutains. Feeling bloated and just plain unhealthy, i took a walk up a mountain to ease myself (as you do). Starting off as just a little wander, i ended up 950m above sea level on a mountain plateau, fiddling with my camera trying to achieve the ULTIMATE shot of both the Remarkables, the gondolas, the lakes and the town. The way up the mountain was especially hard as much of the tracks were frozen over with ice. Taking a good while to climb, as for every step up a slide back down 2. Luckily i had a stick with me to guide, though i dropped it at the top of the mountain.
Coming back down I actually walked very little. I slid much of the way and was relieved to finally get down to the road.
Our hostel was one of teh better ones we stayed in - not so much for the luxury or facilities, just because it was very well laid out. Instead of having just one large building, dorms and a single kitchen, it was divided into 20 small units across a garden. Each unit had 4 dorms (with 4 beds in), 2 toilets and a small kitchen sitting area. Called pinewood lodge, it was one fo the more sociable hostels we stayed in. We were un unit A, on the very very edge of the complex (almost not even in queenstown anymore). Convinced we had the worst unit, me and some others were almost convinced to ransack unit H, that had more couches, seats and a far better kitchen than us. In the end we simply couldnt be assed to go ALLLL the way down the hill to get to it.
Final night in Queenstown was a friday night. After watchign a snowboarding competition in the central square, we got burgers from Ferg Burger. The mere mention of queenstown has people recommending this place the world over, so we though 'final night, might as well TRY a ferg burge'. I ended up getting the mr big stuff. And i certainly didnt regret it. After running with it back home, we opened up the kilogram of meta, veg and bread and devoured them with very little chewing. Then feeling bloated, fat and covered in various sauces, we started drinking... adn drinking.... adn we ended up drinking some more around 'ring of fire'. Then we went to the shops, bought more alcohol and ended up crashing a party hosted by Unit F. Unit F....was... well a bit shit. It was less than half the size and had only 1 toilet. Satisfied that our unit was now looking very nice, we all had a quick bounce on the trampoline before heading into town. Arriving in town around 2am, most places were closed except some dodgy club in an alley way with strobe lights and shite music. We left soon after.....and...got another ferg burger (was NOT a proud night for me). Anyhoo, we once again ran home so we could keep them warm. Only losing a few chips on the way, we got home and gorged ourselves on more food that we didnt really need (but yes, they were GOOOOODDD). So feeling guilty that my diet was ruined, we placed all the alcohol by the counter, had a little tidy up and went to bed.
The morning was NOT a pleasant one. Up at 9 to leave for Christchurch, i packed up clothes, bags and food, said goodbye to everyone who were still in unit A (a lot of them were looking for jobs and the like), and Emily drove us to Christchurch. Goodbye mountain ranges, hello to (from what we have hearD) quite a boring British like town. We checked into a hostel just north of the town centre and started trying to figure out what to eat with the remaing food i have left - not wanting to go to the supermarket and spend.
So its the FINAL DAY of the travels. I have been thinking so much about coming home, that i suppose i am now in the back to reality mindset - thinking about cars, jobs, money and uni again... and of course FRIENDS (and to a lesser extent family :D ). After a brief talk about what me alec and emily are doing for our final night, i left the hostel for a little wander, map ipod etc. I saw the cathedral, the punting river, the red telephone boxes, the dry stone walls and gothic architecture, and immediately started to miss the slightly sub par cities of south east asia - which now seems an absolute age ago. O to have a bowel of chicken and noodle soup. After popping into various museums, sitting by various rivers and looking at statues and memorials, i left to go back to the hostel... which brings me right back to this moment. We still havent decided what our final night will consist of. There is a good steak restraunt nearby so we might go there. With 40 dollars left to spend, it will certainly be a cheap night, but might as well make it a good 'un.
Tomorow, we leave for the airport at 4pm, and 35 hours later (most of that spent on various planes) we arrive back home. Filled with feelings of dread and also euphoria at having to 'go back to life' so to speak. I have a friend meeting me at the airport who will ease me back into the north west london ghetto slowly..... with a good Samis shwarma...