Where two next?

Antipodean travelogue through the eyes of two - one textile and one building lover. It'll be hard to differentiate the two!

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Fox Glacier (12) Day 14

We stayed an extra night in Fox Village in the hope that the weather would improve and the heli-hike the next morning would go ahead. It was Wednesday and the weather was not due to break until Friday. We were therefore not surprised when we heard the rain beating against the roof of the camper van when we awoke the following morning.

The weather was abysmal, and we were snug. One of us however had to leave the warmth of their bed to ring and see if the heli-hike was going ahead. I donned my wet gear over my PJ's and headed out into the rain. When I returned with news that the hike had been cancelled it didn't come as a great surprise to anyone. Hope however springs eternal and I confirmed that I had put our names down for the 12.00 pm heli-hike instead. I wasn't sure whether I was being an eternal optimist or simply delusional!

We eventually got ourselves motivated and headed over to the public wash rooms. Public showers are not always the most pleasant experiences as Annette can testify. It was while she was showering that she heard a mother and daughter in the next cubicle.

Daughter: Mammy I need to go wee wee

Mother: Well we are in the shower now so you'll just have to wait.

Daughter: But mammy I really have to go.

Mother: Well you'll have to go in here then!!!!!!!

Needless to say flip flops, jandels, thongs, call them what you will, are a must when using public facilities! After the experience of the showers and the disappointment of the cancelled hike we decided a treat was in order and headed into Cafe Neve for breakfast.

It was while we were there that Sharon picked up a tourist brochure that said Lake Matheson (43) was worth a visit. It was getting late at this stage but we decided we would head down. We arrived at about 11.30 am and were informed by the signs that the lake walk would take about an hour to complete. The edge of the lake was about 20 minutes away though, which was teasingly close! We decided to ring Fox Glacier Guiding to see if the heli-hike was going ahead as the weather was starting to improve. We were told to ring back at about 11.50 am when a decision would be made!

We set off for the lake knowing that we had about ten minutes each way before we had to ring again. After the ten minutes had lapsed there was still no sign of the lake so we decided to give up and headed back to the car park where we could ring yet again! (At this stage we seemed to be ringing on the hour, a fact that the guide was painfully aware of!) Again the guide said that they still hadn't made a decision and we should come back to the village just in case. The irony being that if the hike didn't go ahead we would have missed the lake also. What to do? Here's a pic of the lake I borrowed from the web. The lake is famous for it's reflected views of Mount Cook admittedly on a clear day!

All this time the weather was improving, it was hard to believe it was the same day. The rain had stopped, the clouds were disappearing and the mist over the glacier was slowly making it's way up the mountain. We all knew it was a matter of time. The day would eventually become clear enough to do the hike but the question was would it clear before the last scheduled flight at 12.00pm? The tension quite honestly was palpable! I was a nervous wreck, it honestly seemed like we were out of time!

We returned to Fox Village and there were an air of anticipation in the car park. A Belgian couple were donning there warmer clothes and so were an Asian family. Had they heard? Was it going ahead? I gave the thumbs up symbol to the Asian family who smiled very politely back but were not giving anything away. I stayed with the camper van as Sharon and Annette went in to find out. Minutes become hours. Where were they? Maybe I should just lock the van and head in myself? It's probably a good sign that they are taking so long? These and a multitude of other thoughts crossed my mind.

Finally I saw them coming towards me. I gave what, I thought was the universally understood, thumbs up, but no reaction? Were they winding me up? Then as if I wasn't tense enough, Sharon informed me that they had not made a decision, but had told everyone to get ready. They were going to take us by bus to the heli pad where the pilot would make the final decision!!!!!! Here's a pic of the heli pad. You can see that the visibility still wasn't great. We went into the waiting room and were given a lecture on health and safety, after which we could pick out socks and boots. The talk took around 30 mins and we were then lead out to a waiting area about 100 metres from the heli pad. At this stage they had put fuel into the helicopter and the pilot was warming up the engine. Our guide confirmed that she would go out and have a talk to the pilot and get his final decision. The tension was unbearable and even though it was highly doubtful at this stage that it would not go ahead, I found it still hard to relax. Finally she returned and divided us into two groups. We would be on the first flight, it was going head. Hallelujah!!!!!

Here's a pic taken from the helicopter of the glacier.

The next pic is taken from the air looking at the waterfall that goes under the glacier which helps it move around a metre a day.

Here's a quick video of the helicopter landing on the ice with the second group while we all cowered down in a group to avoid the flying debris.

Here's a pic taken looking up the glacier towards it's source, Mount Tasman.

To say the glacier was slippy would be an understatement. Treacherous would be more apt! You don't put the crampons on until you get out of the helicopter. Here's a pic of a couple with their final apparel complete with walking sticks.

After we were finally kitted out we set off on our three hour hike across the glacier to find some caves. Here's a few pics of the tour group being lead by our guide.

All the time we were on the glacier the guide was in constant contact with the pilot back at base. We were all hoping the weather would not deteriorate and out tour cut short! Here's a few pics of the first cave we came to. As the ice is compressed it has this amazing blue hue.

The next pic is of Sharon walking through a tunnel.
In order to get the main cave our guide, with the help of her pick cut steps out of the side of a ravine. See the next pic.

Here's a pic of us in the biggest and final cave we found on our hike. The picture with us give you an idea of the scale.

And a pic without us ruining it!

So again I finish the post with another favourite pic from our trip. I had mentioned in our previous post that Mount Cook offered what I considered to be the best scenery of the trip. I also said that there was one other experience we had that would rival that day. No prizes for guessing that it was our day on the Fox Glacier. An unforgettable experience especially considering that we could so easily have missed it!

If you can't afford it, my advise for what it's worth, rob a bank!


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