ICE WALKWednesday 2nd May
At 8.30 sharp we were over in the Fox Glacier Guiding office (just 2 min walk across the road from our campervan) to confirm our booking for the Heli-Hike up to the top of the glacier. They don't finalise your booking until the 'last minute' to ensure that all is well "up there" before your flight. We are quite impressed with the safety preparations and as Mary has never been in a chopper before she is a little apprehensive but also excited. This is not a cheap outing but we may never get the oportunity again, so what the hell!
8.50am and the flight is on. We all (about 15 of us Australian, German, French, Dutch, Canadian, Chinese and even a Kiwi!) then boarded an old (but refurbished retro) bus to run us out to the heli-pad where we were fitted out with proper snow boots and warm jackets if we didn't bring our own. In groups of 5 we then boarded our respective choppers and were flown up to the upper reaches of Fox Glacier. The chopper pilot did a nice job taking us up the glacier mountain gorge and we got some fantastic views
of what a glacier really looks like from the air. Incredible!
We landed on a pre inspected pad of ice and once disembarked were all assembled with our guide for the day, a young experienced girl, Daniela who explained carefully how to walk on ice and what do watch out for etc. We were then fitted out with crampons (boot spikes) which were stored in a big safety box near the landing pad. Once the choppers departed we were on our own and the walk began.
Daniela led the party of us thru and over the ice and snow crevices up and up higher towards the top of the glacier. Along the way she cut footholds and 'steps' with her pick axe and tested each way ahead for safety. I must admit to having visions of those Arctic explorers falling down ice holes and incredibly deep crevices never to be seen again! We were all hoping to see the 'blue' ice caves that they advertise in the brochures but somehow expected to hear the old story "Oh! we can't show you them today. not safe" or some other excuse.
So, our excitment was complete when very soon
she led us down into a deep ice formation and there we were, in a blue ice cave! Wonderful. We all took turns going in as deep as safety would allow and posing for our photos. Soon everyone was swapping cameras and getting their own pics taken. The ice formations were beautiful and right down deep the colour was almost a light greenish hue. Some of the formations even on the surface were striking and took on interesting patterns
We trudged on up and up and soon it was time to return back down to the chopper pad. We spent the best part of 2 hours on the ice and during that time Daniela explained a lot of interesting facts and info about the glacier. Very informative stuff like, the glacier is NZ's longest at 13km and amongst the worlds most accessible and moves at about 10 times faster than any other glacier in the world. At it's top it is about 2800mtrs above sea level and falls down 2600 metres to just 200 m above sea level in a rain forest.
It was here that poor Mary had a fall. When you walk in crampons you must
walk with legs apart, however unless you are an experienced ice walker you tend to forget this. We were getting the "keep on moving" message from our guide to make it down the slope to meet the chopper and in striding out Mary must have put one foot in front of the other and over she went. Almost flat on her face on hard ice with the poor old Canon SX-20 taking the brunt of it on her chest. She still maintains that the bruise to her ego is worse than the imprint of the camera! They both still work! Both will require maintenance!
Finally, back at the landing pad and with crampons removed we took turns in being flown back down to the town after a nice big wide sweep over the glacier for one last look.
We were once again so lucky in having a clear fine day with no wind and beautiful blue sky. At one stage it was almost "warm" up on the ice and we needed to shed some outer clothing.
A great day and with the help of some stunning photos, one we won't forget in a hurry. This has certainly
been the highlight of our holiday in NZ so far. Hope the pics do justice to this wonderful place. Scroll down to the numbered boxes at the bottom for more pics.
Tomorrow, north towards Greymouth.
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