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Published: June 23rd 2017
Geo: -44.6987, 169.133
After leaving Franz Josef (the town and the glacier) we stopped in to see the nearby Fox Glacier. Along with Franz Josef, it is unique in descending 13 kms from the Southern Alps to less than 300 metres (980 ft) above sea level, amidst the greenery and lushness of a temperate rainforest. Although retreating for most of the last hundred years, both have been advancing since the mid 80's but we won't be getting into a global warming debate here. DH had satisfied her need to hang out with helicopter pilots for at least a while, so we just hiked up to the leading edge of this glacier where, at the fence line, we were met by a bulletin board containing reprints of newspaper articles detailing the deaths of people who had jumped the fence to pose underneath the imposing shelves of ice only to be crushed when chunks broke off. Personally I'm not sure I would have put up the boards- just view it as nature emptying out the shallow end of the gene pool and set up some viewing stands.
After that we set off for Queenstown, running the gauntlet of more beautiful landscapes (or at least that's
what DH tells me- since being unceremoniously terminated as navigator in favour of talking cyborg GPS, she's been free to relax and take in the views and, usually on a hairpin turn, tell me excitedly to “look at that” all the while eating copious amounts of natural black licorice). We did stop at a recommended roadside stand to experience a NZ delicacy called Whitebait- although even DH could cook this. It seems to be a ladle of stringy almost translucent baby fish mixed in with eggs and then fried and served on a piece of bread. The entire fish, head, guts, and all, is eaten so it's not a visual feast but it didn't taste too bad.
Our final planned stop before Queenstown was Wanaka which is a quaint town with a beautiful lakeside setting. One of the locals suggested that only tourists stay in Queenstown and travelers stay in Wanaka (and day-trip it to Queenstown)- she clinched the sale when she suggested that the local campsite had free WiFi and the parking was free in town (unlike Queenstown). It wasn't exactly a lottery win, but the mere suggestion of good value in NZ had us settling in for a
couple of days. We did rent mountain bikes and attempted to circumnavigate most of Wanaka Lake which, in hindsight, without bike shorts or any recent bicycle seat time, was probably a bit ambitious- we were both walking like bow-legged penguins for a couple of days but it was a great mountain biking track!
Our first stop on our day trip to Queenstown was the Kawarau Bridge Bungy , the site of the world's first permanent commercial bungee jump. I wanted to give this a try strictly for historical purposes but surprisingly DH wanted no part of this- apparently she had promised God, while descending after skydiving out of a plane some years ago, that she would never again flaunt her life in front of him again. She was also surprisingly upset that I would want to do this…but apparently that was because she didn't know where the passports were, and that I had all the money, the onward plane tickets, and the keys to the van! After showing her where she could find my will on the laptop and turning over all relevant documents and money, she became surprisingly supportive of my need to jump off a bridge even suggesting a
couple of spin moves that might heighten the thrill. The start of the jump experience is a somewhat humbling public weigh-in (I'm still stinging from those hurtful comments from Carol C on the last posting!) although in KG's it doesn't seem as bad, and then the harness and straps are applied (in this age of space travel is a bath towel the best you can do for an ankle strap??), and you are nudged to the edge like a pirate walking the plank. I assume the jump boys are on commission- they don't give you a lot of time to contemplate your fate and while they don't push you, they do give you a fast countdown that would put your masculinity into question if you didn't take the plunge. Once you've left terra ferma there's not much to do but enjoy the ride and hope that the attached elastic band and bath towel do their respective jobs. Once the bouncing stops, DH seems happy to see me walking up the steps and immediately stops the transfer of funds from our joint account. To be honest, the jump was a great thrill but for sustained excitement, I much preferred the SkyWalk
we did in Auckland earlier in our trip to NZ.
We spent the rest of the day in Queenstown and while it is very much the town of tourists, I can see the appeal. It has a chilled out feel to it and a very picturesque setting. By just spinning around you could see jet boats, parasailers, paragliders, and hang gliders in action all around the town.
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