Monday, April 13, 2009

#32 Touching a Gla-ceer

After white water kayaking in Murchison we headed to Franz Joseph, a town with a glacier by the same name. It was named after an Austrian-Hungarian King. Spending money to go on the glacier was quite a bit and, as Cat put it, we were Canadian, we had seen ice before. So instead we did a four-hour walk to the base of the glacier where we could touch it. Our guide this time was a Kiwi named Troy. He was quite funny and had lots of knowledge. He normally did the tours that went on the ‘gla-ceer’ but had to have a shot that morning and was not able to go up, so instead, he took our group on the first walk to the base that he had done in a year. He was loving it and took his time, not caring how long we were out there. So it was a nice leisurely walk until a river got in our way. At that point he led us up this steep, forested embankment. While it was fine for Cat and I, he had to help a lady in her 60s the whole way by bracing her arm or holding her hand. Such a gentleman! I was trying to picture my parents doing it and knew dad would be completely excited by the adventurous climb, and mom completely terrified at the steepness of it.

I learned a lot from Troy about the Maori people who were the first people group in New Zealand. They are amazingly well integrated into the “European” culture, while retaining their own traditions. There are very few land disputes left, but you can find their language printed everywhere, just like French is on everything in Canada. When I arrived in Auckland the first thing I noticed was the number of men in skirts. So many! The Polynesian culture is very prevalent there.

We got to the base of the glacier after passing several signs that said No Crossing or Extreme Danger (without a guide) and touched the glacier. It was a large, large chunk of ice. And very cold. I think the really interesting part was seeing the glacier as it melted into a river. I don’t think I have ever seen the source of a river before and here was one. I can’t remember all the facts about the glacier that Troy told us, but it retracts quite a bit every year but then comes forward again at certain times because of the ridiculous amount of snow that falls every year. Overall, it turned out to be a really nice walk and day out in the sun.

#31 White Water Kayaking

Cat and I had our first bit of fun with white water kayaking. We had the option of doing rafting or kayaking and I hesitated as to what to choose. I had done sea kayaking in Cape Breton and really enjoyed the peacefulness of it; little did I know that this kind would involve rapids (I didn’t realize it was white water kayaking till we got there). Turned out it was the best option.

Cat and I were the only two kayakers amongst two groups of rafters. We had our own guide named Jack, who was Australian, and he gave us a small lesson before we set out. I was the driver, which was fine with me. Being the driver means you sit in the back and steer the ducky (inflatable kayak). It also uses a lot of upper body strength and turned into a great workout, which was really what I wanted. Because it was just the two of us in one kayak, we were able to go back up rapids and take them again. Jack thought we did a great job…but perhaps it is just his job to say that, however I will take that as a compliment.

As a kayaker you are so much closer to the water and it makes going through rapids that much more of a thrill. We were both really glad we did it and I think some of the rafters were actually jealous that they couldn’t get into it as much. I really hope to take up more kayaking in Vancouver.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

#30 Driving on the Left Side of the Road

When Catherine picked me up in her car after I had been traveling for 30hrs, I was a bit knackered and seeing cars driving on the opposite side of the road really threw me. Cat is a fast driver and the roads were very curvy…everywhere. Needless to say I was a little hesitant about getting behind the wheel of our rental car when we got off the ferry in Picton, South Island. I certainly needed to get more comfortable with seeing people driving and seeing the road signs and intersections. On my third day there it was my turn and I was ready. It was actually really fun driving around the super curvy roads, but it was tougher in town and I usually would switch with Catherine before we got into any town with more than a couple stop signs. Of course the first time I get behind the wheel I didn’t notice that we were almost out of gas. About an hour into the ride Catherine asked about gas and I looked down and it was below empty. We started looking for gas stations but didn’t find one until probably 40mins later. I’m not sure if Catherine was upset that I hadn’t noticed, but it was a pretty quite ride till we found gas.

They have an...interesting road rule in New Zealand. If you are on a road and going to turn left (you will not be crossing lanes) and there is a person coming from the opposite direction about to turn right (crossing traffic), you have to let them turn in front of you before you turn. I forgot this rule when I did the North Island by myself and each day I kept trying to think of what the rule was, but would only remember when there was no one to ask. On my last day in the car I had a chance to ask someone and was observant of this rule after that…though I never had to use it. By the end of the trip and being able to drive by myself for a couple days, I really got used it and enjoyed the new challenge. I even felt comfortable driving in cities where there are tons of round-a-bouts and strange intersections. I even started looking the right before I crossed the road. What is going to happen when I get home! It will be then that I get mixed up and get hit by a car. Let’s hope not.

*The first time I got in my car and had to turn at a major intersection, I completely forgot which side I needed to turn on to. Thankfully a truck pulled up in one of the lanes and be the rule of deduction I knew where I was to go. Every now and then I still feel a little strange making turns.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

#29 New Zealand Feb 14-Mar 1

I have two friends who live in Wellington, New Zealand. I knew they were going to be there for at least two years and it would be a wonderful excuse for a vacation. Before I left I didn’t even care that it was New Zealand, it could have been Spain or California, I just wanted to get out of the country and have some adventure. Little did I know that New Zealand would be such a great place to go. There is so much outdoor sport and beautiful scenery. I almost completed my ten new things just on this trip and I’m sure that if I really combed through, I could find 50 new things that I did including sitting in hot springs, which felt wonderful after all the tramping and running I did, even though the bug bites on my feet felt like they were burning off when I stepped in the water.

I digress. It was a wonderful vacation and I ended up meeting several new friends and meeting up with a couple old ones including an old university friend who was traveling through the country for four months and an old high school friend who had just moved to Christchurch two weeks before. It was a strange place to catch up with so many people, but it was so wonderful to see them all the same. I only wish I could have stayed two more weeks, but that is just an excuse to go back to the Land of the Kiwi some day.

More stories from my trip to follow...