Turning a 40 minute stroll into a 2 hour hike!
15.11.2009 - 16.11.2009 55 °F
Jeannine and I found a little stone Anglican Church to go to Sunday services. It was a tiny congregation and the people were warm and inviting. After church we stopped for a bite to eat at a local French restaurant and talk about the sermon over French bread, quiche, and a salmon and shrimp pate. We’ve discovered that although there are a good many restaurants in New Zealand, a national cuisine seems hard to categorize. I’ve read that it is driven by local seafood and seasonal variations, but generally the restaurants that purport to be NZ cuisine tend to be heavy on the beef and lamb. So we’ve haven’t had much “typical” NZ food.
The day was considerably cooler and it being Sunday we decided to take it easy and rest for a while. Around five we went out for a “short” walk. It was supposed to be a 40 minute hike up to the now defunct 1-mile hydro-electric power station. But as we approached the end of the trail I noticed that it connected to an actual 1-mile hike up Bob’s Peak to the gondola complex. I said, “Jeannine it will be fun! We can get a bite to eat at the top and take the gondola down.” She didn’t seem convinced about the “fun” part, but she went along with it. The trail could barely be called a trail at times. We clamored up tree roots, alongside an old water pipe, across several wooden bridges, and all the while wondering, “Are we going the right way?” and just as that thought creeps into our consciousness we see another orange triangle on a tree indicating we did make the right choice back there.
Jeannine, rightfully, felt ill-prepared for the trek. We forgot to bring water! What was I thinking? As we continued up the very steep climb we finally came out on an opening with a sign announcing “Midpoint Clearing.” I wondered, midpoint to what? Trail markings became an issue again. We found ourselves with three possible trails and no sign saying marking way to the gondolas. Jeannine approached a hiker who was making her way down and asked her if this was the way to the gondolas, but she replied she’d been walking a different trail and didn’t see gondolas. We keep hiking up and see another split, but this one had a big sign announcing the Fern Loop Trail and a little tiny 4x4 inch square with the symbol of the gondola and an arrow pointing the opposite way.
We continued up on that trail. With no water or snacks Jeannine was quickly losing steam. Nevertheless, she dug through her backpack looking for anything to eat and found a little stash of trail mix; she looked like she’d won the lottery and I was happy she wasn’t going to start gnawing on tree bark. It gave both of us the final burst of energy that took us to the gondolas. And so this 40 minute walk turned into a two hour hike.
The next day we decided to take a short hike to a glacier! I promised Jeannine we would just do the 1 hour hike to the terminal face of the Fox Glacier and that would be it. No professional tours hiking up the glacier, no ice tunnels, and definitely no heli-treks (helicopter to the top for a hike).
We left Queenstown and drove up the west coast toward the famous glaciers on the South Island. Along the way we got a view of the rugged west coast beaches. You wouldn’t exactly want to curl up with a book on that cold beach surrounded by dead tree branches and stones but it was striking to look at.
That afternoon we went to see the Fox Glacier in Westland National Park. There are 60 different glaciers in the park but the most famous are the Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers. They are about 8 miles long and are impressive sites. As we drove down the road to the parking lot signs marked where the glacier had been in 1748 and 1932. It was remarkable enough to see the loss from 1748, but the loss from 1932 was even more striking. It must have been over 2 kilometers! We arrived at the parking lot and walked about 30 minutes to get to the glacier. Look closely at some of these pictures and you’ll see the dots that are people and you get an idea how massive it is. The trek to the face of the glacier was fun in itself because you follow the small rivers of snowmelt in a rocky, barren valley. We had to tip toe over rocks to cross the rivers until we finally arrived. We waited for a chunk to fall off the face, but nothing happened so we trudged back as a light rain started.