Published: August 6th 2007June 17th 2007
Adrenaline. That's the name of the game. Been a good few days in the icy wastelands of the south island dicing with death, staring danger in the face and living to tell the tale over a nice pint of Monteith's Original Ale.
It all began in the warm surroundings of the very familiar sounding Scruffy Murphy's pub in Wanaka where we had a pizza and drink each for the princely sum of 9 English pounds between us. Excellent value.
The night was cold again but we were expecting it this time and hunkered down in warm clothing and double duvet so it was all good. Headed off into the mountains with the mist still clinging to the ground. The plan was to get over the very tall and icy Haast Pass and down the other side and into Fox Glacier.
The drive was another spectacular one. I'm sure you can guess what it consisted of (mountains, lakes, snow, ice, vertical drops, yadaa, yadaa, yadaa) and we had a couple stops for strolls in natures backyard. the highlight was probably the blue pools. These are pools that are blue. Very blue. They looked almost like you could dive in
and have a good swim. Probably a little on the cold side though.
Once over Haast Past (and the Gates of Haast) it was like another world. The sun was out, we were at the seaside and we sat having lunch in the warmth with only a t-shirt on. Quite a difference. We took a stroll down the beach and to a nice lake nestled in the rainforest before carrying on our journey up the coast and into Fox Glacier. We checked quickly on our booking and confirmed it for 9.30am the following day and headed back to our campervan home for a quiet evening.
And the next morning, we were up early ready to go and jump out of a plane. At 12000ft with a backdrop of Mount Cook and the glaciers. Wow. I should have jumped out of a plane years ago. An unbelievable experience. We arrived at the tiny airstrip and registered and got suited up. Everytime we do these kinds of things they give us horrendous jumpsuits. A few nervous moments were passed practicing our banana and our leap (or push) and then we were strapped into our very snug plane with our tandem
The flight was worth the money on it's own as we had a 20 minute flight up over the glaciers and circling the mountains was stunning looking down on the snow and ice - you can get scenic flights for about the same amount of money as we paid for the skydive. Once at 12000ft we were ready to jump. Mrs Deane shuffled into position, legs dangled, smiled for the camera, a little shove and then.......
...I don't know what happened to Mrs Deane as I was shuffling forward to the door. I forgot all my training and forgot to dangle my legs out the plane. A nervous smile at the camera and ....
...We were told to keep our eyes open at the start and it was worth doing. We did a 360 degree roll and I could suddenly see the plane disappearing above me into the blue sky. It was noisy as the air rushed past in the 45 seconds it took to fall 9000ft. A tap on the head, a big strain on the crown jewels from the strapping and we were suddenly floating serenely in the sky at 3000ft. It was
an incredibly peaceful sensation as we swirled around looking at the view. I had been allowed to take the camera with me so I was snapping away while floating down. An experience never to be forgotten. I could see Mrs Deane floating down a bit below me as the ground came up to meet us. As the ground rushed at us I lifted my legs and made a textbook landing on me bum.
We were buzzing as we made a little speech for our dvd that they made for us (at a price obviously) and sat smiling in the car on the way back to base. We hung around long enough to get all our photos and dvd and headed off in cookie. We would both do it again as it was so good.
We couldn't top that for the day so we settled for a relaxing afternoon's walk around Lake Mathieson and a trip down to Gillespie's Beach. Lake Mathieson is like a mirror and it reflects the two tallest mountains in NZ. It appears on half the guidebooks and is stunning. Got a few photos and you'll have to guess which way is up. Gillespie Beach
is nice but probably not the weather for it. Very weird stood at the beach with rainforest and snowy mountains behind you.
In the evening, still buzzing, we headed to the Saddle Pub for a couple pints before retiring. The next day was more adrenaline - glacier trekking on Fox Glacier.
It was going to be mint. We were booked on the full day tour lasting about 8 hours. Once we were kitted out in full hiking gear with boots (and crampons) we set off in our small group of 8 for the hour trek to the ice. A quick 10 minute journey in a 78 Bedford bus called Stumpy set the tone for the day. Nice bit of walking through the rainforest and before we knew it we were out on the ice. Ice everywhere in fact. Blue ice, white ice, see through ice but thankfully no yellow ice. The day was brilliant with stunning views, no slips, no falls and no broken bones. We went through ice caves, ice tunnels and gazed down ice holes (without falling down them). Met loads of great guys and planend to meet up with one couple for drinks at the
Saddle for happy hour afterwards. Some cracking photo ops as well so I reeled of hundreds of photos that Mrs Golden-Mother-in-Law will love having to sort through back home.
It was tiring work though so it was a good thing we had sticks to wield to help us out. Also of use was a leaving present that a certain Homer Hammond gave to us back in the day before we left. A miniature hipflask and shot glass. I had dragged a little snifter of port along and at a suitable moment got a chip of ice, placed it in the shot glass and had myself a wee drink. Very tasty ice it was too and excellent port. A fine way to finish off a trek. A very fine mint trek on Fox Glacier.
Once down we went and had a well deserved hot shower and headed back to the Saddle for happy hour. Met up with Steve and Laura and spent a few hours chewing the fat and discussing life & politics, etc, etc. Nearly saw a fight between some drunk locals and arranged to meet the next day in Greymouth up the coast.
After a nice
little lie in we were up and heading up the coast. Next stop was the other glacier. We took a photo of it but our heart was with Fox Glacier and Franz Josef just couldn't cut it. Still nice to look at though. We went to the red internet bus to check emails. Best email place ever - just a hollowed out red bus. Very cool. After that it was a long drive up to the Pancake Rocks about 45 minutes past Greymouth. Really funky rock formations that look like loads of pancakes stacked on top of them. Mmmm Pancakes, just need maple syrup. Mmmm.
Once viewed, we rolled back down the steep hill (and dramatic rugged coastline) into Greymouth for tea. But before tea we took a 15 minute well earned rest in the hot spa that our campsite just happened to have. Very pleasant. We shared cooking duties on a curry with Steve and Laura and chatted the night away before falling asleep in Cookie.
Hope you enjoyed the adrenaline filled blog. Keep smiling. Back indoors to Mr & Mrs Deane.
Beer 121: Mac's Gold, New Zealand, Draught, 4.0%, 7.5, nice and tasty
122: Monteith's Original, New Zealand, Draught, ?%, A relatively undistinguished beer
Beer 123: West Coast Brewery Black Ale, New Zealand, Draught, ?%, 7.0, Quite nice, kept the cold at bay
Beer 124: Tasman Bitter, New Zealand, Bottle, 4.0%, 7.5, A nice drop - not to be confused with the Australian lager of the same name
There are more photos below