16/11/06 - Stayed at a place called 'Neptunes' in Greymouth last night and it was lovely. It was an old wooden building, but Kat and Craig, had made it very homely. There was a nautical theme in all the rooms and they were very friendly. It was sad to have to leave them. I checked out with Craig and as I was getting into my car, Kat leaned out of one of the bedroom windows and shouted 'Byeeeee Emma', it was lovely, even though it had been a short stay I really enjoyed it.
The drive to Franz Josef was fine, as I got closer though the clouds came bellowing in and the rain started and basically that rain didn't let up for a whole 3 days!! Checked into my room and decided to go and explore the village. On the way out I booked a full day trek up the Franz Josef Glacier for tomorrow. I was going to go for the half day, but after talking to the receptionist, booked the full day. After wandering for a short while (the village wasn't very big) I sat outside a cafe with a pot of tea. I noticed two people in my peripheral vision sit down next to me, then one of them said, 'hello, remember us?'. Well, low and behold it was the two girls I had shared the courtesy bus with from Christchurch Airport! Their names are Laura and Lucy and after chatting for a while, we said we would meet up later on around 6.45pm in the Blue Ice Bar.
I got to the Blue Ice Bar around 6.45pm and got myself a glass of wine. The bar ceiling had been done to look just like a glacier, it looked quite good and the staff were very staff. It was still pouring down of rain and the weather forecast didn't look too good. I waited about half an hour, but they still hadn't arrived, so I thought they had decided not to come and made my way back to my lodge. I felt a bit disappointed, as I had looked forward to having a night chatting and drinking, now it looked as if it was just back to my room to play 'race the raindrop' down my bedroom window! I was lying on my bed thinking what if they arrived a bit late, when there was a knock at my door. It couldn't be I thought, but yes it was! There was Laura and Lucy! Bless them, they had been delayed finding there campervan site for the night and had got to the bar just after I had left, as they had asked the bar staff. They thought they had remembered the name of where I was staying and my name and had managed to get my room number at reception, fab! We went back to the bar, had a drinkie and a chin wag. It was a nice evening, they came back to my lodge with me, so they could use the internet, then we said cheerio and we would see each other tomorrow morning, as they were booked on a heli tour of the glacier, so I would see them at the booking offices. Funny how some nights turn out eh!
17/11/06 - Got up and ready for my 9.15am start on my trek up the glacier. Something didn't feel right and if I hadn't already paid (and I wouldn't get my money back!) then I may have cancelled. I arrived thinking that they may cancel, as the weather was horrible, but not so, they go up in all weather's apparently! Poor staff! Got given woolly socks and proper hard boots, I had to try on about 3 pairs before I got a pair to fit, they were all too big. Finally ended up with a size 3, but they were still a bit big, so had to wear two pairs of green woolly socks! We were then given some waterproof overtrousers, gloves and a woolly hat, a waterproof jacket and finally our spikes to go over our boots. I felt like I was going on a proper expedition and Sir Edmund Hilary I was not!! There was around 22 of us and we all piled on the bus to drive us up to near the glacier. We then started with a 45 minute walk through bush which bought us out to a clearing with a river. We then had to wade through the river, which was only shin height, so not too bad and trek over lots of boulders. We then got to quite a scary bit, we had to climb up a ladder and when you get to the top you have a rope to hang on to which helps you pull yourself up what otherwise would be a sheer drop down the cliff face! I found this quite unnerving and was starting to think that they aren't very good at really putting you in the full picture as to what is exactly involved in this trek! Eventuall, after another river crossing, we reached the bottom of the glacier. By this time the rain was quite heavy and we were all getting quite wet and it was at this point that I decided to get my camera out, to both take a piccie and also to check it, as my backpack was getting soaked! I was really concerned as the camera case was quite damp, but managed to take a piccie, then bundled it up inside my fleece, inside the backpack. We then split into 2 groups, one group was for very confident climbers and the other for lesser so, I chose the second group, I was feeling rather tired already! We then put our spikes on our boots, which again was quite tricky, as our hands were getting cold, so tying everything in place took longer than it could have. We then started our climb, our guides were ahead of us with their ice picks cutting out the steps. After the first steep climb I became a little panicked, as I was really quite out of breath and nervous at the thought of going any further and higher! Everyone was really kind and helped me calm down and catch my breath and I decided to carry on. It was very hard, not made any easier by the bad weather. Some of the deep ravines we passed over were just beautiful, the ice was sooooo blue, I had never seen anything like it! After about 45 minutes we reached a plateau and another group which were heading back. I was really tired, out of breath and my legs were beginning to feel like jelly. I decided to ask if I could go back with the other group, I had to be realistic, as the thought of going on further then having to come all the way back was a daunting one. Everyone was really nice and they said I had done very well, as most people turn around at the beginning, I had made it 3/4 of the way, so I felt I had achieved something. So, I headed back, which turned out to be the best decision I had made all day! The weather turned for the worst and by the time we got to the final descent back down to the river, our guide, Rhino, made the comment that we needed to get going before we couldn't get back out! He said it quite quietly, but I heard it and even though he was being lighthearted with it, I could sense it was serious. We got off the glacier and over to take our spikes off our boots and I looked over to the river in the distance and I could see how swollen it had become. We waded through the first part and unfortunately I lost my footing underwater and fell over. A chinese man behind me caught me by my backpack and pulled me back up, but I was soaked to the skin and I had banged my left knee and it was sore! But we had to keep going. My legs felt like jelly and it was a real effort to lift them up steep steps, I had to assist by pulling my legs up with my hands! We then had to come back down that horrible rope and onto the ladder, the rain was pouring down and water was teaming down the rockface, I was quite concerned about getting my leg over correctly onto the ladder without falling, but another guide helped me. By this time about 10 guides had appeared, I think Rhino had radioed ahead and they were definitely needed, as by the time we reached the last 2 river crossings, the river was swollen up to our waists and it was running at a very high speed. The guides had to position themselves along the river and we had to walk past them grabbing each arm and at the last crossing we had to cross 5 people at a time with us all holding onto one another. It was quite scary, as the river was very powerful and you really had to fight against the current, but once we had crossed there was a sense of achievement. By this time, my legs were just about done in, every step was such an effort and I just walked the last part back through the bush like a zombie. I climbed onto the bus at the other end and just wanted out of my wet clothes and into a hot shower and to have a hot drink! In a funny kind of way though I had enjoyed it and we had a laugh driving back. I did think of my first group though and the fact it was probably going to be worse for them coming back another hour or two behind us. I was glad I'd decided to turn back when I did. Got back and got out of the sopping wet clothes and they had put on some hot chocolate for us, I got the feeling this wasn't a usual occurrence! I finally walked back to my lodge and proceeded to dry out all my wet things and dived in a hot shower. Afterwards I remembered I had taken my mobile phone and when I got it out of the backpack it was wet! I tried to dry it out, took it apart and dried the inside bits, but unfortunately it was dead! I was worried about my camera, especially as the card had all my photos on it, fortunately this survived! My legs were like lead, but I had a sense of having done something very different today, an achievement, but not something I will be in a hurry to try again! I have never understood the attraction of people like Sir Edmund Hillary, in climbing Everest, etc and I am now even more convinced that they are all raving lunatics!!!
18/11/06 - Managed to get out of bed, but my legs were very sore! I checked out and made my way to Makarora. The weather was still miserable and I had to drive quite slowly at one point, as it got very foggy in the mountains. Saw a sign for the Fox Glacier lookout, so turned left up the track. It turned out to be a very steep track and it was a good job I reached the lookout when I did, as I didn't think the car was going to make it. Took a quick photo and made my way back down, all the easier going downhill!
Got to Makarora Lodge and checked into my room. I wasn't sure at first, as I was in 'Stable 1' and it was quite a walk from there outside to the toilets/showers. But I could see that it was the miserable weather that was helping me get a gloomy view on it all, so I stuck it out. I could imagine how beautiful the place must be in the sunshine. Had dinner in their restaurant (didn't have much choice, nothing else around for miles!) and met Jean and Trevor. I tried to complete a puzzle game which was on our table, but didn't manage it, Trevor had a go (I think he thought he would show me how to do it, but he got fed up too after about half an hour!). They were a nice couple, but Trevor was a bit annoying, as everything I said he had an answer for, or a comment to make and he started to get on my nerves, so I was glad when they said they were making a move.
19/11/06 - Woke up to the sound of birdsong, luvverly! Opened my door and woo hoo, the sun was out and it had stopped raining! The views of the mountains were breathtaking. I had some breakfast and then checked out and made my way to Queenstown. The weather was just lovely and within 20 minutes I made my first of a few stops that day, as I rounded a bend in the mountains, I got my first jaw dropping piece of scenery! The whole journey I was just saying 'WOW!'. I got some beautiful photos of and around Lake Hawea and later on I stopped off in Wanaka, where I also found 'Puzzle World', where they had the puzzle game I was trying to solve last night. I also drove past a few Lord of the Rings locations, in Wanaka I had bought the book which details the films locations, it is really good and helped alot. As I got closer to Queenstown I went past AJ Hackett's first bungy jump at Kawarau Bridge. I was beginning to have second thoughts about doing it! Made it into Queenstown and to where I was staying at Queenstown Lodge, which is on Fernhill. Checked in and the staff were lovely, Santana said my room was the best one for the views over the lake and that the configuration of the room was great, as the bed faced the window, so you could sit up in bed and admire the view! Well I couldn't wait to see it. Before I went through though, I booked a tour to Milford Sound for tomorrow.
Got to my room (no.68) and she was right! The view was just out of this world! I probably haven't mentioned up until now that I have splashed out a bit (still only 50 quid a night inc.buffet b'fast!) and this is a double with ensuite room, woo hoo and I'm here for 3 nights! Took some photos of the view and had a cup of tea. Strolled into the town later on, walked in along the lake side, Lake Wakapitu, it was lovely. It was just soooo nice to have the sun on my face after all those miserable damp, dull, grey days. There was a cold breeze, but it didn't matter, the sun was out! Finished the day off with a brilliant lamb shank dish in the lodge restaurant, with a lovely glass of NZ wine, together with an even better view of the lake through the ceiling to floor windows, just beautiful!