I have opted to Heli-hike for a number of reasons. First, it's a 4hr excursion in a group. I expect to meet people, hopefully have them fall in love with me and my cheeky Brit humour for the day and subsequently have an awesome day as a bonded group. Second, although I want to do the Extreme Fox (you get a t-shirt that says extreme fox!) my right knee is not feeling so great and hasn't been since an awkward manoeuvre scrambling over rocks in Queenstown - the 4 hours dancing in a club afterwards probably didn't help either ;)
My third reason is the most lame of all. I am tired! I know as I have gotten older that I get tired sooner than I used to, it's not a huge difference but noticeable one. I used to be able to pull 16hr shifts at work for many weeks at a time and still be bouncy and chirpy and now I bail and go home after about 13-14hrs. Things change and today after a lot of exercise and concentrated effort driving yesterday I feel my brain is foggy - or maybe the breakfast was more gluten contaminated than I thought. Either way I am not keen on being on a glacier at 9am and I just wriggle back underneath the covers and think: "I should probably get up and going." and then I catch myself in a should moment and I realise that my tired state means I am in danger of should'ing all over myself.
So I curled back in bed, deciding on an early afternoon flight and watch a show I've been missing on my iPad using the free wifi....woot! Part of living a life true to yourself is first learning how to really listen to yourself. I have the most delightful indulgently lazy-ass morning, moving only when I realise that I have a whole slew of bites on my ankles and lower back. "Damn it!" I treat these irritating little scratchy punctures with some bite ease and then comfort myself with some chocolate in bed and my tv show. This bit of devoted rest re-energises me and my excitement to explore returns in spades... Let's go!
I explore because I want to, I eat when I want to and because I want to, everything I do is what I want and as I want and done when I want - Such as it is to be free.
In the end I have to slightly rush but I still arrived at my target time in Fox Glacier before any of the other fellow hikers.
First come the clothing, I am already suitably attired in my waterproofs (thank you Phil) and the guy uses me as the example of an excellent outfit. Go me!
Our tour to the glacier today has a majority of people coming from Bejing, China. A lot of these folks do not speak English and so there is a lot of translating going on.
We hop onto a coach to taken us over to the heli-pad. The chap in the seat in front of me will be very red by the end of the day... Eeek!
At the heli pad point we get listed out with out boots.
With thick pink socks to go with.
Our own shoes go in the box till we return.
Boots on and all ready we now get weighed on some large grey scales with yellow edging, so they can work out helicopter 'loads'.
We are given safety instructions for how to approach and get in and out of the helicopter. Basically don't go near the blades and the doors fall off easily so don't touch them.
Panorama of the helipad area
The front people load first.
Now for me!! :)
It's a tremendous ride and I would really recommend getting onto the glacier via helicopter if you've not been in one before. If you have, use your judgement as it is of course more expensive.
The chopper flies pretty close to the mountains :)
t's been 298yrs since the last one! and these rocks will likely come down then."
And then comes in to land on a square of ice marked out with pebbles
Another helicopter arrives and we all crouch down and cover our eyes so flying ice doesn't hurt us.
"Most days! So it's great when the weather is like this!"
"Does that mean you are likely to be up here when the earth quake comes?"
"Erm yeah! Yeah I guess it does."
Hmm possibly shouldn't have said that ;)
I take a picture of the glacier close up. It's pretty ice ;)
We are given crampons to fix to our boots. These work a treat and the ice becomes easy to walk on without slipping.
This is Duncan our guide. He is great! :)
Single file we stomp across the glacier :) It's up, down, up, down, up, down as we make our way across the terrain.
It's definitely not snowy terrain here... Very hard, very sharp in places and you need to stab your feet in to get grip. It's also an incredibly and unusually sunny day up there and people aren't as prepared as me with the sun lotion. I offer mine around but all decline saying they are ok... Many turn out not to be ok.
The scenery is spectacular, although by this point I expect no less from New Zealand. :)
Many pools have formed here where the water runs down the glacier. "This is glacier melt water" and Duncan steps close and has a drink "Cleanest water you'll ever drink." No one drinks ;)
The terrain is so craggy we don't see the other groups that we are told are up there.
A beautiful waterfalls add a rushing sound backdrop to the other peaceful sky (apart from all the helicopters ;)
We are walked to many caves. The glacier is shifting and changing a lot so a cave today may not be there at all in a week.
I smile knowing I am wearing factor 50 for kids... Oh yeah!
Here in my hand I hold a piece of glacier.
I find a stream of glacier melt water and I bend down to try it. I have met a lovely lady called Nicola here and she takes my photo as I taste the water. It tastes like sun tan cream. I try to wash my hands better in the cold stream.
Waterfall and cavern.
I watch Duncan using the ice pick and I have my photo take with it to look cool.
Nicola maker her way up the next ice cave.
Our helicopter lands, we get out and then it leaves just as gracefully. To where? Who knows! I like to think that they just fly about waiting to be called down ;)