• 05 . 01 . 07
  • I infamously failed to climb Mt. Fuji last year, so what possessed me to climb a glacier I don’t know. I would have felt reassured seeing the elderly and children also attempting it, were it not for the fact that a bunch of primary schoolkids climbed Fuji a couple of days before I did. Luckily, […]

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Slip Slide Ride

I infamously failed to climb Mt. Fuji last year, so what possessed me to climb a glacier I don’t know. I would have felt reassured seeing the elderly and children also attempting it, were it not for the fact that a bunch of primary schoolkids climbed Fuji a couple of days before I did. Luckily, it wasn’t too taxing, and more of a trek than a climb, so I didn’t embarrass myself this time. (I still blame the altitude!)

With morning came one of Franz Josef Glacier’s 265 annual rainy days – positively English drizzle, that slizzled down your nizzle and chizzled your bizzles. The kind of rain that mainlines into your bones and stays there all day. After jumpstarting the car, which seemed to have given up the ghost over the freezing night – (very glad we slept indoors), the hardy trekkers continued on. A short drive to us to the Scenic Reserve and a short walk from there took us to within sight of the glacier. No problem, I think – a few more minutes and we’ll get on it. Pity the fool. Due to a ‘fascinating’ optical illusion, the glacier, while appearing mere metres away, was actually a lot of metres away. I can imagine that illusion being much more fascinating on a warm day. It was only a few kilometers mind, but down a stony river bed in the pissing rain, just to get on a piece of ice, to potentially fall off… Everest was only climbed because it was famously “there”. The hardy trekkers continued on.

When we finally reached the base of the glacier, it was time to get spiked. We’d been carrying these sets of crampons in bumbags, that looked suspiciously like beartraps, so when the guide asked us to step in them firmly, I was a bit dubious. Lots of peoples hands were too cold to do up the straps, so the guide talk us how to do the ‘penguin dance’ to keep them warm: Hunch your shoulders, arms by your sides, palms face down to the ground and “shrug and dance and shrug and dance”. Again, a bit suspect – “has my guide recently seen Happy Feet, perchance?”, I wondered, before dismissing the idea as silly. New Zealand’s solitary cinema in Hokatika probably isn’t due to screen that movie for another 3 years. Apparently, Edmund Hillary (a Kiwi, don’t you know – remember that one for 10 famous Kiwis) invented the penguin dance, which probably means Sherpa Tenzing and his family had been doing it for years already…

I saw Touching the Void recently, which perhaps explains why I had Bony M’s Show Me Emotion in my head for the entirety of my time on the ice. After I’d been humming it repeatedly for a while, somebody politely suggested that I might also die thinking of Bony M if I didn’t shut up. The glacier itself was spectacular in spite of, or perhaps because of the weather, glistening white and blue, with water running in continuous streams beside the tracks. Of course it was all very safe, with hand ropes and stairs cut into the ice, but even so, a number of Americans later commented that they couldn’t believe there was no disclaimer or waiver to sign before departing.

After around 6 hours, we finally arrived back at the booking office, looking and feeling like drowned muppets, but some chocolate, hot and cold, soon sorted us out. Rather than stay there another night, we got underway again shortly after and drove down to Haast, which, despite also being small to the point of barely existing, was nevertheless split into 3 micro-settlements, Haast Junction, Haast Beach and the somewhat hopefully named Haast Township. The inhabitants of this region, all 175 of them are sometimes known, brilliantly, as Haastafarians. Clearly the guy who named all this stuff, Austrian Julius Haast, was either very egotistical, of limited imagination, trying to make up for other areas lacking or all 3. He also discovered the Haast Pass, Haast’s eagle and the Gates of Haast. Our chosen lodging for the night was the very comfortable Wilderness Accommodation. The only drawback I’ve found thus far is that the top bunk which I got is about 18 inches below the ceiling – I have to be careful not to sit up to quickly in the morning. Tomorrow, we’re off to Queenstown.