On the way to Franz Josef I was chatting with Nola about hiking the glacier and she said she wanted to do a heli-hike. In my mind, taking a helicopter to the top seemed like cheating but on talking with Kerry, he said it was worth every penny. So I joined her.
Oh my God…first the helicopter ride was amazing. You get a real sense of the size of the glacier. Second, the glacier was incredible. Blue-white peaks going into the blue sky, entire streams of running clear water, and the hiking was intense: sometimes the guide had to cut steps into the ice for us to walk on! The sheer enormity was so hard to comprehend that a lot of my photos have people in them to show scale.
The next day we headed up to Wanaka, here’s a photo of the crew of girls (Nola not pictured). After a brief stop in Wanaka, we went to Queenstown where I finally saw Jacob!! We spent the last part of the day together and then the night. He looks great even though he’s lost a fair bit of weight – he promises to eat more. He went bungy jumping outside Queenstown, I’m so jealous.
The next day I flew from Queenstown to Auckland and Jacob took the bus to Arrowtown to start his walk to Wanaka.
In Auckland, I rented a car and started the harrowing driving on the left side of the road! Driving from the airport to the hostel (Verandahs again), I broke out into a sweat any time I had to make a right turn and at one point clipped a car with my left-side mirror (no damage done and nobody even heard it except me, whew!). I made it to the hostel, kissed the ground, and decided not to drive again until the next day – to the grocery store, quite a bit easier than the airport!
Friday night I met a cool woman at the hostel, Shawna, she’s American from Vermont but she’s been living here for 5 years. She told me about the Lantern Festival going on, it’s the Chinese New Year festival here where they decorate all of Albert Park with huge lanterns in and under the trees. We went together and braved the massive crowds. It was so cool – photos to come – and we even got to see the prime minister speak. The coolest part was a puppet-like show where a big wooden structure is used for human- sized marionettes.
Saturday I picked Blair up from the airport!! She has a slight cold, so we stayed in Saturday night, but it was neat showing her around Auckland like I knew the place :). I’m so happy she’s here – I’ve missed her a lot and it’s been great being with someone who knows me…the retelling of the abridged version of my life story is getting a little trying. She’s thinking about staying an extra week and our friend Suzanne (Ted’s wife) is planning to come and meet us in Wellington next week!
Today (Sunday) we drove to Whangarei (pronounced fun-gar-A) with an afternoon stop at Goat Island nature reserve. I snorked a little and swam a bunch in the nice, cool water. We had to leave when the tide almost took us and our towels out to sea! We’re in Whangarei now at an amazing hostel (The Little Earth). It was originally planned to be a B&B, so the beds are huge and the view from our sliding glass door is of a big field and vegetable gardens. You can walk from the back door to the Abbey Caves (with glow worms!).
Tomorrow we’re going snorkeling at Poor Knight’s Island, right off the coast of Whangarei and to the glow worm caves in our back yard.