Also Nelson and the Queen Charlotte Track
22.11.2011 - 25.11.2011 18 °C
A tired squint through the bedroom window at 7am (Hectors rear screen!) told us that the helicopter ride was unlikely to happen.. again!! But enthusiastic as it was the brightest day we'd seen since being at the glaciers, we got ready and set off for the Heli Hike Company. We arrived all bright eyed and bushy tailed and got told to wait half an hour while the pilot decides if its safe to fly. We went next door to our new favourite coffee shop (Full of Beans - ) and grabbed a couple of strong coffees and some internet time while awaiting his decision.
Now fully awake from the substancial caffeine intake we bounced next door only to be told that it had been cancelled due to low cloud (bad times). We asked if we could go on a full day hike without the aid of a helicopter and she shook her head and told us the hikes were all now fully booked. Jayne looked like she was about to cry and I was proper miffed as I'd set my heart on a ride on a chopper (ha ha Fish Bros boys, yes that comments for you!).
We quickly rang the other companies and found one that had 1 space, but none with 2 so decided to book on the next heli hike for lunch time. Jayne went for a run around a lake, I caught up with the 2nd season of Walking Dead (using the internet to watch it) and we waited yet again.
You guessed it.. cancelled AGAIN!! Deciding that someone obviously had plans to never let us go up in a helicopter, we booked on a half day walk up the glacier instead. By now it was not an option to move on after waiting 3 days without even seeing the bloody thing!
Arriving at the office the lady issued us with plastic tags that were to be exchange for waterproof coats, trousers, boots, crampons, hats and gloves. Now fully kitted out and looking like giant smurfs
it was time to board the coach for the short drive to the start of the walk.
The first 45 mins was a walk over loose stones and rubble which our guide informed us was once a lake and before that the glacier used to stretch beyond the town and all the way to the Tasmin Sea. A steep climb then took us over 'dead ice' (ice that is no longer moving with the glacier) and high enough to see our first proper view of the Glacier. It was hugely spectacular and much more impressive than we first thought. The guide informed us it was 22 km long, at the top it was approx 450 metres deep and it moved by upto 1 metre a day!
The order was given to attach our crampons, which we had to do before being allowed to set foot on the slippery stuff.
Walking with crampons is kind of fun when you get used to it, you can practically walk up a vertical slope and they grip ice so well you never feel unsteady. The long (and very wet - raining again!) walk took us up many steps carved by our guides with their ice axes
and even to an ice cave which we managed to crawl our way through.
At the turning around point you could really start to get a feel for the massive size of this moving river of ice as we saw some giant crevasses
A few catalog poses later
it was time to head back to base. It was a different route back which took us over more crevases and hand carved paths until finaly it was time to remove the crampons and trudge back to the waiting coach.
Although we were both gutted at first for not being able to do a full day hike, the half day proved lots of fun and very tiring so all in all it was a good compromise. I still wish I could have seen the very top though on the heli hike :-(
Out of the soaking wet hired clothes and back into our normal gear we spent some of the saved money on a lovely meal in 'The Landing Pad' restaurant as a treat. Then it was time to make use of the free Hot Pools pass that came with the trip. Hmmm hot pools.... nice and relaxing after a cold wet and tiring day. There were 3 pools of increasing temps (36,38 and 40 degrees) which we soaked away in until 10pm when they closed.
A strong desire to get on the road again saw us driving until midnight down dodgy mountain roads as we headed north towards Greymouth, happy to move on now that we had finally stepped on a glacier.
Awoke to heavy rain again. Now behind on our plans and as it was a shocking day, the decision was made to spend the whole day driving to Nelson via Greymouth.
Approx 7 hours+ of driving with only a brief stop off in Greymouth for Eggs benedict and a small shopping spree to buy Jayne a carved bone necklace, saw us arrive at Nelson in time for Dinner and an early night. Good news though, the weather for the next few days shows Sun, Sun and more sun!! Yay, can top up those Fiji tans before Australia!
Jayne - I did manage a swift 45min run last night up into the hills above Nelson, the very steep track lead up into thick forest with some amazing views into the valleys around and the whole of Nelson - I would have kept going but it was getting too dark. The morning brought sunshine - hoooray so we ran into Nelson to a local gym and swimming pool for a long overdue workout and my first swim since the start of the month - whoops, dont tell coach Phil!
Now unable to move our arms properly, we decided to drive towards Picton (where we first entered the South Island by ferry 2 weeks ago) where we wanted to spend the day before heading for the Marlborough vineyards (and winerys - yeay!) on Saturday.
We stopped for an hour at Cable Bay near Nelson which was the site of the first cable ever laid between Australia and NZ and just so happens to have a lovely hill to walk up to catch a fab view of the whole bay.
We arrived at a conservation campsite in a little bay in the middle of nowhere somewhere between Picton and Nelson at about 6pm with enough sunshine left to have a beer and cook a steak and salad for dinner.
By 9pm we were fully under attack by mosquitos so retreated to Hector who was sadly already buzzing with the little blyters. 15 confirmed kills later, my one and only girly pink travel towel was covered in squished mosquito body parts. But happy that our mission was acomplished, we feel asleep. TEN TIMES Chris woke me up after that to tell me that something was still buzzing in his ear and then to tell me he was too scared to go outside to the toilet so he had to wee in a bottle. Good god.
After a very disturbed/disturbing nights sleep we set of to Picton to book our sea kayaks we had decided to rent for the day. We were sent of to another little bay in the Marlborough Sounds were we met a man with a kayak. We were given a safety briefing, told we probably wouldnt capsize unless it was really windy, and then told that although gale force winds where forecast, we should probably be fine as long as we stuck to the sheltered bays. Humm. We set off being blown around to the first bay an hour quicker then we should have, a bit worrying but the views where beautiful and we were following the path of the Queen Charlotte walking track - another of NZs great walks. The sky was blue and the sea was turquoise so we stopped at a bay and ate our sandwiches.
The paddle out of the bay was entertaining and involved being blown backwards mainly. We decided we should head for home and after several galeforce 'puffs' of air which threatend to send us back to the North Island, we pulled the blimin thing back to shore. I still hate kayaking.
As we had finished quite early, we thought we would walk some of the Queen Charlotte Track which was a bit more sheltered by the mountains and far less blowy!
We grabbed a shower at the kayak centre and set off down the road where we bumped into a lovely campsite, right on the waterside. We cooked a mound of noodles - i fed my left overs to a couple of intimidating ducks and we set Hector up to sleep in nice and early to avoid the mozzies.