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.