Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Its off to Franz Joseph and the gggglacier!

May 10th. Everyone a bit tired today as we headed out to Punakaiki, one of the most beautiful spots along the coast. This area is best known for the amazing Pancake Rocks and their accompanying blowholes.

Through a layering and weathering proces known as "stylobedding" (i got this from LP in case you think im a complete geek!) the rocks have formed what looks likes stacks of thin pancakes. When a good tide comes in, the water surges into caverns below the rocks and squirts out impressive geyserlike blowholes. We took a walk around this area - really beautiful scenery!

Then we headed further south past Whatoroa (checking out the glacier blue water that flows directly from the mountains) and the town of Hakitiki, where we lost Pete, who fell asleep on the beach! The entire bus had to go out running around, trying to find him..and yes, he got lotsa slagging for this little episode!

Arrived in Franz Joseph around 5ish. We all checked into Rainforest Lodge hostel and then headed out to see the town - again a small place but the real reason we are here is to undertake our "glacial ice hike" tomorrow on the Franz Joseph glacier! Yah, i've really been looking forward to this! Interesting story about this glacier - it is quite special in that it advances and retreats more than most other glaciers......sometimes moving up to 5m a day (10 times faster than glaciers in the Swiss Alps!). Also it is one of the few glaciers that co-exists next to rain forest land..... Early Maori knew this area as Ka Roimata o Hine Hukatere (Tears of the Avalanche Girl). Maori legend has it that a girl lost her lover afer he fell while climbing the local peaks, and that her flood of tears eventually froze into a glacier (awwww, isnt that a beautiful tale!).

May 11th. A beautiful day dawned.. how lucky were we considering the weather report said lots of heavy showers... all we had was blue, blue skies so couldnt complain! Pretty much all of us were doing the full day hike so we headed out to the glacier around 8am with great anticipation, in our fashionable hiking gear! Our guide for the day, Mike, was a great guy, with quite a tough job. Not only making sure none of us actually fell in to the many crevices we had to climb over or through, (and yes, there was one or two times yours truly lost her balance, despite wearing crampons which were supposed to stop us sliding all over the place) I still managed to nearly fall into one of the aforesaid crevices....a tad nervewracking but also exciting!.....but Mike also had to constantly cut out new steps or platforms in the ice for us as we walked onwards and upwards to the top of the glacier (well, as far as we would be going; approx. 550m above sea level and walking about 15kms around the glacier!)...

The views were incredible I have to say.. and the glacier seemed to go on for miles and miles...some of the crevices were so tight, you literally had to squeeze yourself through the spaces. And we also had to haul ourselves up and sometimes down really steep sections in the ice with ropes and ladders ... this was fine until the afternoon brought our freezing rain and we all began to get really, really cold! Throughout the day, we had noticed a strange phenomenon, Marieke was becoming very attached to her ice pick, to the point where we were all getting a wee bitty nervous as she swung it around her shoulders, over her head, picking away at the ice.....just teasing Marieke but you were sad to say goodbye to it - be honest!But I think we all felt this was a brilliant day and well worth the effort, although we were all completely exhausted at the end of the day!


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