Thursday, November 16, 2006

Nuw Zulund, cont

After our "glacier adventures" we drove south to Queenstown along the coast. Couldn't have asked for better weather. It was the first real day of sunshine we've had in NZ. The drive was amazing, with the first half along the western coast, and the second half through the mountains and lakes to Queenstown.

Queenstown is definately in a prime location. But gee, touristy! Definately the most touristy place I've seen in NZ (and even in most other countries). The locals (if there are any left) must be mad at it all.

Took the cable car up to the top of the hill behind town.. absolutely beautiful views from up there. Chi has gone off to his day of jetboating, whitewater rafting and helicopter riding. I've given it a miss as I'm not to keen on getting wet as it's still freezing cold. Low single digits at night and mid teens during the day.

From Queenstown we headed to Te Anau, the last main town before Milford to stock up on supplies for our trek. We got lots of icky looking freeze dried meals, salami, dried beef, cheese, muesli bars, apples, rye bread and chocolate. I think each of us had about 2.5 Kg of food to carry (4 days supply + extra in case we got stuck due to avalanches or flooding). Plus other stuff like toilet paper, dish washing soap and stuff like that.

We had our last good meal at a place called Olive Tree Cafe in Te Anau and headed to our hostel. It was a wet, cold and grey evening. We packed our packs (minimal clothes, lots of food and other stuff), had a crappy dinner and headed to bed. Well not before a mini emergency when we realised we had to pick up our tickets from town (60Km round trip) at about 4pm! Anyways, got tickets, got to the hostel and got to sleep.

Next morning was, you guessed it, cold, wet and grey. We got our packs and headed down the road to the start of the famous Milford Track.

To be continued...

Friday, November 10, 2006

Nuw Zulund

Early start in Sydney, didn't work out well for me, tho it seemedChi had a worse time, as he just made the check in close.. My day gotworse as I first thought I'd left my all important jacket at home,then managed to leave my boarding pass at the place I had brekky.Found it after a few heartstopping minutes of searching!

We finally got to customs and there was a MASSIVE line.. we werethere for about 30 mins and were almost the last people on the plane..anyways, the flight to NZ went without any issues and we landed prettymuch on time. Got our little Echo (268,000 Km on the clock, but prettygood condition) found our hostel (Stonehurst) and went for a lookabout town.

Christchurch is dead. Very dead. Even on a Saturday afternoon onlythe two blocks around the centre of town around the cathedral had anypeople. Even the shops were closed. We took a walk around thecathedral and down to the Avon and to the Musem next to the botanicalgardens. After that it was back into town to a "dodgy looking chinese"place for dinner. Oh and we notice that there were a LOT of koreansabout town. Unusual.

We started driving north from the next morning arriving in Kikourafor lunch. A very very pretty town with snow capped mountains in thebackground. Pretty small and sleepy tho. We had a nice lunch there thowe didn't think paying NZ$50 for crayfish was sensible.. Regretting itnow tho..

We drove on to Nelson through Picton.. some very nice scenery, anda challenging drive with narrow roads, lots of climbs and descents andzig-zag roads. At Nelson we stayed at a very very cool backpackerscalled Tasman Bay. Totally cool atmosphere and people! Definatelyworth going back if we're back in Nelson.

Next day we drove north to our walk in Able Tasman National Park.The weather was rather grey and cold and neither Chi nor I was keen onkayaking. Instead we took a water taxi to Bark Bay and walked down toTorrent Bay (about 2.5 hours). It was constantly grey and drizzly butit was still very very purdy.

It was low tide when we got to Torrent, so we decided to go toAnchorage Bay over the tidal mudflats. About 2Kms worth of mud. LOTSof fun! Really! Nothing like the feeling of mud squishing through yourtoes!

We had to sit around Anchorage for a few hours in the rain (beingattacked by those annoying Sand Flies) for our Water Taxi. From thereit was back in the car and heading to Westport.

Westport is kinda like Newcastle, but deader. I mean there was NOONE at 7pm on the main street. We were the only people having dinneror a drink at the local pub! We stayed at a place called Robyn's Nest,which is a rambling old mansion with the downstairs part converted toa backpackers and upstairs for the family. It was nice enough, butlets just say the shower/toilet faciclies left a LOT to be desired.

Next morning was wet and grey (notice a theme?) and we set out forFranz Josef. About 15 mins out of town we realised we didn't refueland the car definately didn't have enough petrol to make it to FJ. Chidecided to soldier on confidently saying that we had enough for FJ thoI seriously doubted it. The first town we passed, the servo was out ofpetrol! Finally we got to Hari Hari and filled up! Phew!

Made it to Fanz Josef early in the evening, checked into the YHA(very nice!) and went for a trip about town. Went to the Glacier tohave a look, it looked big. Got back into town and had a nice dinner(spoke to a nice German couple in the pub about the world cup). We gothome early to prepare for the big glacier hike the next day!

Our "glacier adventure" to come!

Glacier on the day we climbed it.

Glacier the day AFTER we climbed it!

Friday, November 3, 2006

Glacier Adventure

So everyone who's been to New Zealand says to go visit Fransz Josef Glacier. Climb it, they say. Of course Chi and I wanting to do that and more, decided to do the big full day glacier hike, spending some 6+ hours on the Ice. It should be good, yeah?

It started pretty well. We both had our own gear, and used it except for the boots and crampons (metal spikes that strap onto your shoes to get extra grip on ice). Got on the bus and headed over. It was slightly cloudy and a bit on the chilly side, but a nice day. The sun even came out for our walk to the glacier face.

Thigns started going south soon as we got onto the ice tho. As we were strapping on our spikes a slow drizzle started. The air got colder (ok so we were surrounded by 100 million tons of ice, but still!) and low, grey cloud drifted in.

We slowly made our way up the ice. It was getting colder and colder, and wetter and wetter. There was very little pretty blue ice like I'd seen in the pictures, mainly coz there was no sun to speak of, and secondly because there was a lot of mud and rocks around. Every now and then there was a very pretty ice crevasse or cave or something, but it was rare indeed.

After about the 3 hour mark the rain got heavier. Very heavy drops... like melted snowflakes... I asked the guide if it ever snowed in November around here.. "never" he said. But sure enough, about five minutes later, big fat snowflakes started drifting down. Pretty soon it was snowing quite heavily.

By this stage I was wet and miserable, and my hands were getting numb. So numb infact that I couldn't even adjust my crampons when they got loose. When we finally reached the top and stopped for "lunch" it was grey, wet and we really couldn't see very far. My lunch had also frozen solid, so I was even less happy! :(

After some stuffing around up top (I think the paths were getting slippery coz of the extra snow) we decided to turn back. We painfully truged back down over the next few hours, with me losing feeling in both hands halfway to my elbows! yay! So much fun!

Eventually got back to the hostel and stuck my arms in warm water for 20 mins before any feeling came back. Wow what an adventure.

To make things worse, the next day it was perfectly clear, blue sky and much warmer. Not happy.

So, lessons learned? Don't book Franz Josef treks beforehand. Go there and check the weather and book only if the conditions are good. It's brilliant when the conditions are good, and miserable when they aren't.

Thursday, November 2, 2006

En Zed

I'm off to New Zealand on Saturday with Chi for a couple of weeks of hiking and general going about. I haven't been really excited about the trip yet, but I think it's slowly starting to grow on me. I'm sure I'll get into it when we land in Christchurch in ~48 hours.

We're just doing the general "drive around the south island" thing. Not much is set in stone yet, except for the 5 day Milford Trek and a hike on Franz Josef Glacier.

Will keep the blogosphere informed via updates when I can. Hopefully the lessons learned in Europe will make this one a better travel blog.

Dude, You've Changed

#tags music

Who would have thunk it? Clare Bowditch and the Feeding Set have won the ARIA for Best Female Artist! That's a huge acheivement for an artist who has had no commercial radio play at all! AND in even better news it seems Clare and Marty are expecting TWINS!

To wrap up a decent ARIAs overall, Bernard Fanning got the Best Male Artist award and Midnight Oil got inducted to the Hall of Fame.. and they had a go at the poncy pop princesses that dominate music these days. Good on em!