Sunday, 20 February 2011

Glacier trekking and other frolics

After our amazing skydiving trip in Abel Tasman, we drove for a whole day south to get to Fox Glacier, and the next day we went glacier trekking! The glacier is a 13km-long, slow-moving river of ice running down the valley. Snow falls in the mountains and then presses down and compacts into ice, which then flows slowly downhill under its own weight before melting at the bottom (it takes years for ice at the top to reach the bottom). We had a gorgeous day for it - crisp and sunny - and the views in the mountains were fantastic:

We went with a guided group so that we could actually get up on the glacier itself. After a walk up to the first section of ice, we stuck crampons on our walking boots and started climbing up a stairway that had been cut into the ice. The glacier is always moving and parts gradually fall away into chasms, so the guides are always having to find new routes through it. Our guide went ahead of us, scouting a route through and hacking at the ice with a pick axe to create footholds.

It was a really amazing day, and a very memorable experience. Plus we had some silly moments too:

After the glacier trip we headed to Wanaka, which is set in the middle of some of the most beautiful lakes and mountains I've ever seen:

We all really enjoyed Wanaka: it had really nice cafes, a great ice cream parlour, lovely walks, and a brilliant little independent cinema full of sofas where you can get a pizza in the interval! (We went there to see 127 Hours - not for the faint-hearted!) We started our first day in Wanaka with a walk around Mt Iron, and we also spent a couple of evenings swimming in Wanaka lake:
The next day we went to 'Puzzle World' - brilliant fun! It's just outside Wanaka, and they have a two-storey maze with towers and a bridge which was genuinely difficult to figure out:

They also have a sitting area where you can while away hours doing puzzles, and they have whole set of illusion rooms, including this one (demonstrated by Stu and Dan):

We really could have stayed longer in Wanaka, but we are on a schedule so we pushed on to Queenstown. (On the way we stopped for tea at quaint Arrowtown, a lovely old gold mining town which reminded me of Lewes back home.) Queenstown is most famous for being the adrenaline-junky capital of New Zealand - you can do pretty much any variation of throwing yourself off bridges and out of planes. We had already done a bit of that sort of thing and, since it's quite pricey, we gave it a miss. Luckily, Queenstown has lots more to offer. It's a really nice little town to walk around, with lovely lake and mountain views and plenty to see. Stu and I had had a hankering for mini-golf for a while now, and we spent a happy hour or two on a very elaborate mini-golf course, complete with electronic 'effects' that lit up/played music/took your golf ball up a ski lift. Here is Stu making like King Kong at the golf course:

We also made sure we had a burger at 'Fergburger', which is something of an institution in Queenstown, and it totally lived up to the hype. I think I'll stop there and leave you with the above image, because I like the idea of it lingering in the minds of our friends and family across the globe...

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