Backpackerbird

An insight into the world of travel

Glacier Hike Anyone? December 4, 2009

Filed under: New Zealand,Old Journal entries,Travel — backpackerbird @ 11:23 pm
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On the road again. We were only a mile from Barry Town when it happened. We crashed the bus. Stretch (the driver) collided with a clearly visible road sign. The side front window shattered on impact. It did however stay in the frame…. for about 100 yards! It feel straight through, the bitter outside air came gushing in. Brrrr. A quick stop at a rundown service station that looked like it had stood unchanged since the 60’s and we had patched the window up with clinging and duck tape.

Soon after the accident Stretch was feeling guilty for the sub-zero temperatures in the bus so stopped to buy us a hearty breakfast. We stopped at the Pancake Rocks, these were rock formations jutting out from the sea. They get their name from the layers or stone they are made from, pretty spectacular really. I got snap happy.

A few hours down the road and many a game of I spy we arrived at a beautiful powder blue glacier fed river. Ice cold and running furiously. The beach was made up of enormous stones and gigantic drift wood. The snow-capped mountains as a backdrop. Perfect for a photo.

Arriving at Franz Josef by nightfall gave me just enough time to whip up a tasty feast or myself and the others. We had become accustomed to cooking in a group. Much more economic and social. A quick shower and down to the bar for a night of travel bingo and poker. Im getting good, play dumb, and hope for the best. I dont have a clue what I’m doing but I find this helps. I have a killer poker face. It’s a look of confusion that wins me the game. Im sure my winning streak wont last long.

The beer was flowing and the company was 1st class.

Up early with a slightly hazy head but this wasnt going to hold me back. I had decided to treat myself and booked onto a Heli Hike up the Franz Josef glacier. There were actually 3 ways to ascend the glacier, the Half Day Hike (for the seriously unfit and the skint), the Full Day Hike (for the seriously fit and the adventurous) and the Heli Hike ( for the lazy and rich) I was not rich but didn’t fancy a half-hearted half day and definitely didn’t think I was fit enough for the Full Day. 9 months into a travellers lifestyle of boozing nearly every night and not hitting the gym once had started to take its toll. So $300 bought me a ticket to ride.

Kitted out in boots and spikes and equipped with a pick axe I border the helicopter. This was to be the first of many heli flights. I made sure I got a good seat by the window. Lift off, vertical at 1st the swooping towards the glacier. sowing meters away from the ice, dropping in altitude down sheer cliff faces and waterfalls. It was an awesome feeling. nothing like a plane more like free falling and hovering in mid air.

Once we had landed on the ice I attached my spikes to my boots and started the exploration of the glacier. I was not easy, ice is slippy. There we massive crevasse’s, huge blue formations of ice to navigate around. We squeezed into an ice cave. It was surprisingly tight and I panicked. Not like me at all. The girl in front of me calmed me down and I was soon a natural on the ice. We had to lay down and slide on our stomaches for some parts, the cracks were that small. Not good if you are claustrophobic.

Our guide Tim was a bit of a dish. He would walk in front and hack chunks out of the ice to form steps for us to follow. This was ment to ease our journey, I still lost my footing often.

The 3 hours we had on the ice seemed to fly, just not long enough. The helicopter was eagerly waiting ur return. The flight back to base was as equally exhilarating as the outward journey. One of my favourite days so far. Highly recommended even if your purse strings are tight.

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Whale watching in Kaikoura, New Zealand. December 3, 2009

Filed under: New Zealand,Old Journal entries,Travel — backpackerbird @ 6:16 pm
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Starting in Christchurch, along with Liz and Chris was picked up from the hostel by what was going to be my transport for the near future, the stray bus. Kerry was to be our guide. He had a dry sense of humour and made practical jokes. He was a Jack the lad type of bloke, extremely likeable. I made sure I sat within the main crowd that was forming on the bus so as to ensure I was sure to get to know more people.
1st stop Kaikoura. The weather was pretty miserable but we didn’t let that stop us having a blast. There were snow-capped mountains behind the town, not that they were anywhere to be seen for the thick cloud that lingered. Once we had checked into the lovely quaint and cosy hostel that had traditional fire places in each room, ornate wallpaper and plenty of old photos or Maori culture hanging in the many corridors, we walked down to the sea front. We were heading for the whale watching depot. $120 bought me a ticket to jet out to one of the deepest underwater canyons in the world. The ideal place to spot a sperm whale. A short wait in the gift shop ( a ploy to get us to purchase) and out to the boat.
I was truly expecting a boat rather like a sea trawler , the kind you see in fishing programmes in the north sea. An old battered tin can. I couldn’t believe how wrong I was. We were escorted onto a swanky Catamaran with large comfortable leather seats and foot rests to match. I was suitably impressed. Off we went, out to see in search of the giant sperm whale. It took about half an hour to reach the canyon, which I am told is as deep as 5 Auckland sky towers are tall. The Maori skipper has a whale tracking device so was positive we would see a whale. Whilst we were on the hunt an other guy gave us some useful information about the sperm whale and the area we were in. It wasn’t long before we were hot on the tail of our first whale. Once it surfaced we all sped out to catch a glimpse. This whale was apparently called Big Nick…He remained on the surface for about five minutes, blowing air from his hole giving us all a good view, before arching his back and plunging deep down into the depths of the canyon flicking his tail as he subsided. He cave us a classic whale pose. Perfect photo opportunity.
There were five whales out that day, the skipper said we were extremely lucky. On the way back to the marina we saw a seal having a fight with an octopus. Clearly lunch.
Fish and chips was on the menu when we got back on dry land. I opted for sweet potato chips, an interesting flavour, an acquired taste.
The rugby was on that night so we headed to the local bar. I sat drinking with the guys, We played cards which soon turned into drinking games. Bates were placed and money was lost. That’s what I call a day in the life of a traveller.