One of the hi-lights of any trip to New Zealand is to visit the Glaciers on the west coast of the south island so obviously we weren't going to miss it out of our tour and after Wanaka we crossed the mountains and hit the west coast which is famous for being the rainiest coast in the country. I could bore you with the reason and in fact i'm going to. It's because New Zealand is on the Roaring Forties which refers to it's latitude (or maybe longitude) and basically means that there is nothing in between South America and NEw Zealand so the wind comes rushing over the sea picking up lots of moisture, when it hits NZ it runs into the mountains of the Mt Cook range which are very close to the coast so rises quickly, cools and it rains. A lot.
Not that we saw any of this when we rolled up on Tuesday afternoon in glorious sunshine and planned how to see the glaciers. The glaciers are incidentally the lowest in the world meaning that they are easily accessable, you can walk to them from the village if you want to and in fact at the last mini ice age which ended around 1750 fact fans the glacier reached most of the way to the village but retreated soon after that.
This was one of the times we planned to push the boat out with a heli-hike to the top of the mountain which involves a scenic helicpoter half way up the glacier where the copter lands and you spend two hours walking on the glacier. Spectacular.
That night we walked to Lake Mathenson in the sunshine excitedly talking about the next day. Incidentally those thinking that Rhiannon was doing well on her lack of blond comments should have been in the information centre that day as Rhiannon brandishing a brochure that says the walk around the lake is 90mins approahed the lady.
"So is it a 90 minute walk from here in the village" she asked
"Well it's 6km from here to the lake and you'd have to get there and back and around in that time!" she laughed thinking that would end discussion.
"So is that 90mins then there and back from here walking?" Rhiannon queried again.
Repeat the above conversation another time and you end up with the woman just saying "yes, you can do 6km there, 5km around the lake and 6km back in 90mins"
I digress. The Lake is very beautiful although not as great as perhaps it is made out, with the water so still and clear that you can see the reflection from the mountains mirrored in it's erm.... water.
The next morning things looked instantly bad for us with heavy cloud cover and three hours to go before our flight. To cut a long story short we worried for hours about it and with good reason as they cancelled all flights for that day and forecast rain and low cloud (and therefore no flights) for the rest of the week and we did not have the time to spend hanging around waiting for the weather to clear.
We thought about it before deciding to do the glacier walk figuring that we may aswell get on the ice even if we can't do the flight. Out of the hundreds who'd had their flights cancelled that day only four of us did the walk, us to and a hardy looking Dutch couple. There was a reason for that, it had started raining and we were going to get wet.
The walk was largely uphill and was very tough with the heavy rain not helping our footing and the visibility dramatically reduced but I think it made it a more challenging experience as I felt like a real explorer or something. Actually I had flash backs to Rocky IV when he does the training up the Russian snowy mountains, had I not been in a group I may well have bellowed "Drago" from the top of it. I regret not doing it actually.
Despite that, walking on the ice along a glacier, despite the poor weather was awesome, I have a battery of stats about the glacier but you can look them up as i'm running out of time, i'll just say that it is 13km high (I think) and is truly amazing. The views were rubbish as we were at cloud level and you can't see much through a cloud but i'm not going to let that put a downer on things.
We were both absolutely knackered by the time we dragged ourselves, drenched to them bottom and headed straight for a pub where we ate massive burgers and drank celebratory beers, still gutted we couldn't do the flight but glad we had done something and walked on a glacier which you don't do every day.