How to travel 20km in 6 hours in a broad bean

Published: February 18th 2012
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This morning I woke up in Mount Cook. This evening I'll be 20km away, though I will have driven for 6 hours and covered nearly 500km in the car.

How so?

Well, I'm driving to Franz Josef, home of the glacier, to do a spot of ice climbing, however there's a bloody big mountain range blocking my most direct route. OK, OK, I could put on the crampons and hike over the mountains but a) it may be a shorter distance but it'll take me a lot longer and b) I couldn't leave the bean behind! So an epic trek to end up just the other side of the big mountain is ahead. Splendid...

The good news in all of this is that the route is beautiful. To start with, I had to drive past two fabulous lakes - Lake Hawea and Lake Wanaka, which were breathtaking. Then, joy of joys, I ended up back in Wanaka, the town that I'd visited so briefly on my way out of Queenstown and where I'd vowed to return one day. I didn't anticipate it being so soon but I took full advantage of the situation and had brekkie at a lovely cafe on the main road.

Have I mentioned before how many hitchhikers there are in NZ? Honestly, the place is littered with them. Old, young, male, female, groups, singletons - you can't drive longer than 5 minutes without being asked for a lift. I'm a right miserable so and so because I just keep on driving - well, they could all be axe murderers, right? Or, more importantly, I'm the one that's paid a fortune for this hire car and they want a lift for nothing? Not on your nelly...

I headed off again, through Mount Aspiring national park, and onto Haast. No time to stop, got to keep on moving...but I got to Bruce Bay and was blown away by the beauty of the coastline, so felt a photo opportunity come along. Rocks, twigs and all - all stacked up in formations by previous backpackers, against a crystal clear light blue sea.

Finally, I reached Franz Josef, a quirkly little town that looks like it would be much more at home underneath a foot or two of snow than the sunny skies given to us today. A few shops, a petrol station, and a plethera of motels and hostels. The backpackers I'm in is great - I've got a 5 bed dorm all to myself, next to the balcony overlooking the gardens. Couldn't ask for more. Tomorrow I'm off to climb a glacier - yes, finally I get to wear the crampons - as I've heard it's a great hike to do. Get me, all hiking and no lazing about... it's not too late to do the skydive though, and I'm sorely tempted to do it here. I've lost enough weight to allow me to do it, which was the first obstacle. The second is fear...and the third is money. I reckon I can deal with 2) but 3)? That's going to be a huge problem, seeing as the exchange rate has hit an all time low. Fingers crossed for an improvement over the next couple of weeks or else there'll be no throwing myself out of a plane, just for the sheer hell of it...


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