May 30, 2010

New Zealand’s Sound Island: Murchison, Franz Josef Glacier, Blue Pools

Filed under: General,Places — Cory @ 12:42 pm

(I wrote most of this back in March while we were traveling in NZ.)

After arriving in Picton via the ferry to the South Island we drove 2.5 hours through some of the most beautiful scenery I’ve ever witnessed. We were told by several Kiwi’s on the North Island that “there are no people down there” on the South Island, and they seem to be right. There was a period of about 45 minutes while we were driving that we only saw two cars pass us, and not a single house or person along the way.

We finally arrived at Murchison and parked the RV at the Kiwi Holiday Park, which was really nice. After getting settled in we walked down the street to grab a lamb chop and beer for dinner.

The next morning we headed out to Franz Josef Glacier, where we had a 2:15pm helicopter hike scheduled with the Franz Josef Glacier Guides. We got to the Franz Josef Top 10 Holiday Park around noon, cleaned up, and went to the office to wait to be picked up for the hike. A lady finally showed up and told us that all hikes that day had been canceled due to the weather. We asked her to reschedule us for a heli-hike the next day. Everything was booked completely full except for the 2:15pm hike, so we took that.

We now had our first bit of downtime on the trip, so we took advantage of it to do laundry, clean up, and rest a little bit. (this is also when I finally had a chance to write the previous blog post). We found Internet access in the strangest place, “The Red Bus – Cyber CafĂ©”. It’s quite literally an old red bus, lined with computers that was run by this cross of a redneck and hippie. Jason said the bus smelled, but I didn’t notice anything. When we were paying him afterwards he mentioned that he kept his Internet fast by using Linux to cache everything. I couldn’t believe what I just heard, considering it looked like this guy barely knew was a computer was. (He mentions using Linux on the bottom of this page). The whole thing was a little strange, but he was a nice guy, and hey, we finally had Internet access.

The next day we were up early and waiting to see how the hikes were going. One by one, each of the scheduled heli-hikes for the day were canceled due to weather. We walked over to the guide’s office every hour or so to check in and they kept saying that it didn’t look good. Even at 2pm they said they weren’t sure. Finally, at 2:10 they told everyone that the weather had just improved enough on the glacier and that the 2:15 trip was on. As you can imagine, we were very excited about this.

After we geared up, got our boots and crampons, and were briefed on entering and exiting a helicopter, we headed over to the landing pad. Neither of us had ever been on a helicopter before, so this was pretty exciting, in addition to the glacier hike. Franz Josef Glacier is one of three glaciers in the world that lead down to a rain forest, so once we were in the air we were able to look down on all of this. Our guide was named Bruce, and he was a rather chill guy who had relocated from the UK on a whim. Since we were the first trip to go out in 2 days and the glacier shifts and moves on a daily basis, Bruce jumped out in front of us to find paths to us take through the glacier. Often he would use his pickaxe to cut steps into the side of slopes to allow people to climb them. We found a cave that went deep under the glacier (25-30 feet) and we went through that as well. There were little streams of water flowing everywhere through the glacier, all with intensely blue water. The weather ended up being perfect while we were up there. After hiking up and down the glacier for three hours the helicopter returned to take us back down to the town.

Within minutes of landing and getting out of the helicopter we were back in the RV and on our way to Haast Beach. We got there just before sunset and stayed at the Haast Beach Holiday Park, which is quite remote. Jason didn’t have a cell phone signal for a couple hours on each side of it. After waking up here on Saturday morning we headed down to Haast Pass to check out the Blue Pools. There were a couple of really neat wooden walking bridges (including a swing one), and the water really is incredibly blue there. After the pools we continued on to Queenstown, stopping only for gas (and a smoothie) in Wanaka.

Pictures are available in my “New Zealand – Australia” gallery. We took a ton of photos, so I’ve just uploaded a few of the more interesting ones. Some of these are Jason’s photos too.

Driving 3-5 hours every day can get pretty boring, and you run out of things to talk about. On the trip from Haast Beach to Queenstown Jason came up with the idea of filming us while we were driving. Yes, this is how bored we were. After he set up the tripod and had everything configured we started filming and played funny music. It was hard to keep from laughing while the camera was rolling. :)

Here’s the full playlist of our driving videos. Other funny ones are Country A Go-Go and the dry-run practice take.

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Delayed Gratification Blogging

Filed under: General — Cory @ 10:26 am

I’ve gotten really behind on blogging.

While Jason and I we were traveling in New Zealand and Australia we had a bit of a difficult time finding any WiFi, and forget about it being free. Also, unlike our previous Europe trip where there were 3-4 hours of train rides between cities, in New Zealand I was driving 3-5 hours a day and there just wasn’t as much time to write. Anyway, enough excuses.

The posts are coming today, although at this point these posts are mostly for my own archival purposes.

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