Sunday, September 24, 2006

24 - September 2006

When we were falling asleep last night, it started to downpour. But I awoke, for no particular reason, at 2:45 AM to total peace, so I was excited that our plans for the day might be unhindered after all. What I didn't know was that I had caught the literal calm before the storm. Within minutes, the most thrilling and powerful thunder and lightening show of our lives took place! There was hardly even a moment between the cracks of lightening (that lit up our entire room like pure daylight) and the booming (wait, make that BOOMING) thunder. We lost power and everything.

By morning, it was miraculously warm and dry (and the storm was the talk of the village--Fox locals said they hadn't experienced anything like it!). But since there was fog in the township affecting visibility, our 9:00 AM glacier heli-hike was cancelled. We opted instead for the helicopter-free half-day hike to and on Fox Glacier (lucky we chose Fox over nearby Franz Joseph, which was apparently closed for the day due to a collapse after the storm). It was quite a climb (a sweaty, steep, guide-led-only hour and fifteen minutes or so, with precarious areas at which you climb ladders and hold onto chains to avoid slipping off the narrow ledge--and this was marked for people of "moderate" fitness; we can hardly imagine the ones for "good" fitness!) through the rainforest to get to the ice, but it was more than worth the effort.

Fox Glacier, one of only three areas in the world where rainforest and glacier intersect, is 300 meters deep and an estimated 16-billion tons of ever-changing ice (the glacier is advancing at three feet per day at this point--approximately ten times the speed of other valley glaciers in the world--and you can hear and see blocks of ice cracking and tumbling as you go along). Our actual ice time (the tour company provides waterproof pants, wool socks, hiking boots, and crampons) was about an hour and a half, and even in that short time we witnessed changes in the ice (fresh waterfalls, melted sections, freshly carved stairs that were no more, etc.).

You are humbled on the massive glacier (to help people get a sense of the size and scope, the tour company brochure superimposes a to-scale Eiffel Tower onto the glacier, and it's totally dwarfed!). I loved the crunch of slush and the crisp sound of our spikes digging into solid ice as we carved our way across this living remnant of the Ice Ages. The glacier is rockier and dirtier than we expected, some of which was due to last night's storm. But it was still magnificent! The bright white powder and the crystal clear blue solid ice were brilliant under the beaming sun. (The weather ended up being more than perfect--"wicked day fer it, eh?!" our guide Jeremy kept marveling--and the afternoon helicopters ran as scheduled; while we were severely disappointed to miss out on that adventure, we've managed to convince ourselves that it's far more noble to get to the ice on [now blistered] foot than to laze our way there by helicopter.)

In the afternoon, we took the rainforest walk to New Zealand's West Coast icon, Lake Matheson, which perfectly reflects the trees and mountains all around it (including Mount Cook/Aoraki and Mount Tasman, the country's highest peaks). Between the quickly moving mountain clouds, slight breezes on the water, and carefree ducks swimming by, the view changes by the minute (I didn't catch the best one on camera, when all the snow-capped mountains suddenly and briefly peeked out from the clouds, as there were a couple of large-headed people in my way at the time--wah!), and it's positively mesmerizing.

Then we were off on yet another incredibly scenic drive, this time to Wanaka, at the heart of the Southern Lakes. Along the way, we walked to Forest Creek Falls (and saw countless other falls along the road) and passed serene lakes, rushing rivers, and even a couple of wandering cattle. Everything seems untamed and pure here. And we were totally confused and amazed when, at one point, the sun seemed to be setting on every side of us--only in New Zealand could that spectacular feat be possible!

This evening in Wanaka, we scouted out an internet place where we will finally be able to upload a big batch of recent blog entries as well as a medical center to visit in the morning to get a handle on Mike's itchy, persistent hives. But for now, it's bedtime--tomorrow, we've vowed to take it easy!

--These folks love their eggs, too. Kiwis even put them on pizza (we can't even picture it--and choose not to!). And on a Hawaiian pizza, you get not only ham and pineapple, but, oddly enough, shrimp and banana, too!

--Aussies (and particularly Queenslanders) are extremely and understandably proud of their country, and they don't hesitate to tell you why; Kiwis seem to be more in awe of their amazing country, and they let the natural beauty speak for itself.

--We can't imagine a better place in the world to camp than New Zealand. There are uncrowded, easily accessible, stunningly scenic campsites all around. We've noticed that many people choose to hire campervans, too, which seems like a particularly ideal way to see the country as a family (we'll be back, and next time you're coming with us, Kiddos!).

Favorite signs of the day:

(That's "World Bar Secret HQ," and it reads, "shhhh" above the entry door.)


faywrayy said...

Wow!! NZ looks to be so lush and beautiful...and I remain pea green with envy!

Angela :)

6:53 AM  
Dina said...

Well, now I know just how little I knew about New Zealand...

It looks absolutely beautiful - I LOVE the glacier pictures and can only imagine how breathtaking it was to see in person!

It sounds like you guys are having the time of your lives!!

You look great Alisa:) I hope Sawyer is doing well with his cast, and that Mike's rash is better.


7:23 AM  
NYMomLynne said...

What an enjoyable 45 minutes (with a few interuptions since I'm at work) I spent reading about this leg of your trip. Amazing!!!
Thinking about Sawyer's arm. Kyle gets his cast off on Friday. Hope Mike feels better too.

11:55 AM  
jessica said...

So sorry to hear about all the mishaps, between the camera, Mike's hives, and especially Sawyer's arm!! But I am thrilled that you're having such an awesome time--what a truly amazing trip this is for you guys!!!! You are both looking so cute and happy in all these fantastic photos!

3:49 PM  
ellen said...

I love the variety of all you've gotten to see, and I'm struck by the extremes--hot,cold; high, low; flat, hilly; sunny dry, stormy wet. The one common thread is that it's all perfectly lovely. I'm mesmorized by the wildlife (cute koala shots--squirmy for Mike and cozy/cuddly in momma Alisa's arms!) And the food--some of the tasty treats you've encountered look divine! Are you terribly sick for the children yet? On our Scotland trip I ached for mine, and we were only gone 10 days. When I saw their little faces on my return they seemed at first like strangers! I drank them in for days. You look and sound like you're having the time of your lives though--so much discovery. I was quite behind but very much looking forward to catching up with your blog and it didn't disappoint in the slightest. We just returned from a week at the seaside which was wonderful. Jonah had a rough week as he ran fevers over 105 and developed severe tonsillitis. This kid lives for the beach and could only lie there miserably. He's feeling much better now thanks to some antibiotics and a steriod to shrink his nearly-touching tonsils down to a more normal size. Alisa I'm so happy that little tag-a-long has decided to give you a break from the queasies. You look amazing. I hope Mike gets help with those hives. They must be aggravating--although they don't seem to be slowing either of you down much! We were back to reality today and poor Garth was back to work at 8 this morning and is still there at 9 tonight. I'm amazed he got to go for the whole week though--we had a stroke of luck and brought on an old colleague as an engineer just before the trip and with his help they were able to hold the fort down until Garth got back. Being back is a bit of a shock to the system for both of us. We slip easily into beach living and had to be pried away kicking and screaming! It's also not helping that all 4 kids seem to be suffering with dirrhea. Ai-yi-yi. So enjoy! (I'm certain you will knowing your gracious nature!) ;)


6:31 PM  
reednose said...

It seems you two may return to NZ before Australia next time, eh? What diversity. I like the mention of unique accomodations for backpackers/hikers. Sounds like they beat a lot of the hostels here.
Sorry to hear about your fancy camera but am so glad you still have at least one to continue your collection of fantastic photo memories.
The storm sounded amazing. I am very impressed with your gutsy ice hike being pregnant and all, Alisa. Mike must have felt a little relieve in the cold, no? Hope so!

9:23 PM  
Sonya said...

You are certainly covering a lot of territory--I hope that your rest day has you rejuvinated!

Love all the photos, too!

One thing I loved about NZ as a kid was their hokey pokey ice-cream. But to be honest, I can't remember if I loved the name or the ice-cream!

1:35 AM  
Sonya said...

ps--I'm so jealous of the thunderstorm! I seriously miss that kind of weather!

1:48 AM  
franzen family said...

I miss storms too! Its looks as amazing as i have heard it is and like you all are having a really great trip. See you soon

1:53 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home