Saturday, September 30, 2006

Fox Glacier mints

When I first heard of Fox Glacier in New Zealand I immediately thought of those mints you used to get (can you still I wonder) where in the advert a Polar bear balanced on top of the mint. This Fox Glacier was much bigger and there are no polar bears. I couldn't tell you whether it tastes minty, although I am guessing not.

So now I can say that I have walked on a Glacier. It was another brilliant day. We donned our boots and woolly socks at the guide centre and headed off to the Glacier in an old bus (from the same year I was born, 1978) which would be brilliant as a converted campervan. On the bus the guide told us and the group that the walk to the Glacier would be pretty physical, walking up hill through temperate rainforest to allow us to get on to the glacier. There were a few apprehensive faces especially when he said that if he yelled “run” it was very important that we did so, as it would mean there is a rock fall. The walk was up hill and could have been a lot more strenuous but the guide kept the pace quite slow. Luckily he didn't shout run at all, but we did have to pass through an active rock fall bit on his command, in threes and be ready to run very fast if he shouted. The walk was quite a quiet one with an absence of bird song, although I did see a couple flutter by. The quiet was punctuated by water flowing down the Mountain and we saw a few waterfalls one of which I tasted the water from. It tasted much nicer than the NZ water we have tasted so far (it's awful).

We climbed a steep, narrow section, rounded a corner and was greeted by magnificent sight of the glacier below us. We had seen it from the bottom, but from this perspective, it was much more spectacular. From where we stood we could see 7km of ice stretching away. There was another 6km behind a ridge which we couldn't see. We could see people on the ice and they looked tiny. Swamped by the enormity of what looked like an ice mountain, but which essentially is an ice river. We descended down on to the ice. I felt excited and was grinning a way. As we stepped on to the ice we felt an instant drop in temperature. We attached crampons to our boots and plodded away up a path that had been cut and which has to be up kept everyday due to the shifting nature of the ice. The guide lead the way chipping away with his pick axe. The ice is quite dirty in many places due to rocks which the ice brings up, but as we moved further in we could see really white and blue ice. The blue ice in particular was beautiful. Perfect.

It was interesting to see up close the formations that the ice makes. Water was running down the walls of ice all around us and this reminded us that we weren't standing on something solid but in fact an ever changing, moving river. It was interesting to learn of the life of a glacier, how they recede and advance, all due to the patterns of the weather; there are many factors which all interact to determine the Glacier's path. The experience was elating and the Glacier beautiful yet all I could say to Tim was , “Wow it's so...big”. Poignant words I know, but words escaped me. It was great. Much better than the mint version.

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