I am definitely growing this year. Of course, you think, but to me it is not always evident. I spend a lot of time either catching up, scrambling up, holding on, looking away or biting my tongue and I sometimes resort to cursing or crying (alone of course because they are far ahead, re-climbing the hard part for fun and waiting for me). Don’t misunderstand, I’m not whining or feeling sorry for myself, it’s all in the perspective of things and on the spectrum of life, I don’t think that my family is unreasonable, they just have an extra dose of adventure in them (compared to me). The world is their cup of coffee and they will take three extra shots of espresso each and I just want a cup of coffee, maybe even decaf depending on the day. I don’t feel sorry for myself, it’s not a “poor ol’ girl” kind of thing, it’s just a “who they are” and a “who I am” kind of thing, but I have made some progress and I will tell you about it.
We had pre-planned to spend one night in Fox Glacier even before we left home. We would hike to the base of Fox Glacier and check it out and then continue on our way up the West Coast of New Zealand but on a”walk” in Queenstown, we talked to some young people who had just come from Fox Glacier and who were very bummed that their helicopter hiking tour had been cancelled because of the weather. Next thing I know, Scott is on the computer looking at taking one of these tours. He asked me what I thought and I honestly thought that it sounded interesting and that was about it. Well, to be perfectly honest, I thought it’s a good thing that there are age restrictions on the really exciting stuff or I would be eight hours hiking and ice climbing on a glacier, and it would not be the twelve year old slowing everyone down.
It was a long drive from Wanaka to Fox Glacier but then all of the drives seem long in New Zealand. Regardless of the scenery, there is the driving issue and the winding mountain roads on top of that. It was a relief to finally arrive and hike to the glacier viewing area. You can’t get too close because Fox Glacier is very dynamic and it seems like there are always things falling, even around the viewing area, at least according to the signs.
This is the trail head, no drones or dogs please! This is the first “no drone” sign that I have seen.
You may be swept away in the river by a giant ice cube induced wave. I thought this sign was a little dramatic, but then I was talking to a cab driver in Christchurch who was telling me that many people do get washed away in rivers on the West coast because the weather changes so quickly.
The view of the trail behind us as we hiked towards Fox Glacier and where it was at one time in the past.
Serious business getting up the trail.
We made it safely to the viewing area…
…where there were more warnings.
The viewing area overlooked the very front of the glacier called the terminus. Did you see the documentary “Chasing Ice”? An interesting film for anyone who likes glaciers, camera equipment, National Geographic or inspiring stories.
We stayed about an hour and watched chunks of ice break off and flow down the river. You can see the waterfall to the right of the photo.
We hiked back out through the valley carved by the glacier. It was so surprising to me that it is walking distance from the very warm rain forest area to a giant chunk of ice.
This is not the starry night sky where I saw the Southern Cross and an upside down Orion, it is a rain forest path and a glow worm grotto. We spent the night in the township of Fox Glacier, a cute little village. I was so excited to learn (thanks to Scott) that there was a glow worm walk right in the middle of town. I had wanted to see glow worms since we decided on New Zealand but I didn’t think we would be in the right area. Thanks to Grant and his patience, I have a few pictures of the little fellows in the forest but it was pitch black and hard to photograph.
We found this heart in the glow worm grotto and illuminated it with a flashlight. Love from the glow worms!
The real treat happened the next day which was a very warm one and had all of the locals complaining about heat and humidity, but at least Mt. Cook and Mt. Tasman were visible in the cloudless sky.
Ashley and I got to ride in the front of the helicopter.
The view was great and we could see so much more of the glacier.
We landed on the hopefully non-crumbling part of the glacier…
…and spent about 2.5 hours hiking around the glacier with our guide. It was surreal and so much fun and even though I occasionally had visions of the one of the kids falling into a crevice, they weren’t too vivid and I loved hiking with crampons. I finally felt that I could walk down something steep without slipping.
Ashley is always on the heels of the guides. It’s her version of sitting in the front of the classroom. The guide cut steps in the ice when the going got steep.
A child-eating ice crevice.
It was actually a challenge fitting into this arch of tons of ice that could crush us.
This is called a moulin, a hole in the ice that water flows through. They come in many sizes, big enough to swallow a person whole, but are mostly the same shape and found all over the glacier. If the glacier was cut in half, it would look like a piece of Swiss cheese because of these moulins.
It was a very warm day and so bright on the glacier that Grant wore sunglasses and a hat.
I climbed through this thigh burner and yes it was at that angle and I did it while videoing Scott and Ashley with my phone.
It was fun and cold and a little disconcerting climbing through a melting ice tunnel.
Waiting for the group.
Fox Glacier hiking was fun. I had a great time, something I don’t think I could have had six months ago. My comfort zone has been stretched so much on our adventures that the Fox Glacier Tour was easy and fun. The helicopter ride was exciting and short enough that I didn’t have time to worry about crashing, the crampons gave me a feeling of power, the guide kept the mountain goats in check and so I was free to look around and enjoy being on a glacier in New Zealand.
Fox Glacier was the second glacier we had visited in a week and the first we had ever touched. Glaciers are not giant chunks of old ice as I had once thought. These endangered behemoths are alive with formations that are ever changing, moving, growing and crumbling. They are wild and quiet and strong enough to carve away mountains and yet they cannot survive the changing world. Fox Glacier taught me something that I should have learned a long time ago, something that Scott and the kids know and practice all of the time, but has never occurred to me. I view adventure as something to accomplish, not really as an enjoyable experience, but that is wrong. Real time adventure can be fun, not just the feeling of accomplishment that one gets from getting through it, to the top of it or to the end of it. I think I have a new understanding of why all of those journey versus destination quotes end up hanging on the wall.