22 February, 2006

I promised Mom I wouldn't bundgy jump, but I didn't say nothing about the canyon swing

Recap of the recap, I was reminiscing to a friend about my ten day sojourn to the South Island of New Zealand over the Christmas Holiday and proudly exclaimed "and I climbed a glacier, a freaking glacier! Can you believe it!"

Ten days in the South Island. Ten days with intermittent mobile phone connections, with mountains and valleys as far as the eye can see and with views so green and so unbelievable you would think that this country swallowed a can of Kelly Green tempera paint from elementary school.

Somewhere around day three of my marathon trip the bedraggled group of ten and I landed in a small town above Wanaka on the West Coast. We stayed in a backpackers lodge that doubled as a pub for the oh twenty or so locals that lived within a fifty mile radius of nothing. A five minute walk up from the huts that we would call home for the evening, we stood in awe on a beach that was just beach. Not to be seen for miles around; not one single house, beach venue, hot dog stand, cable wire, or other living soul besides our group. Just teal blue waves, cool clean wintry white foam, fine grain white sand, sleek black rocks and sun bleached driftwood. With the song "Run" by Snow Patrol playing on my iPod and blasting in my ears, I heaved a sigh that could have been heard on the East Coast.

That evening we dressed up to the letter "P" at the pub and I the "Princess" was joined by my travel mates in their very inventive attire. One of them during the drip down the coast made a stop at the local version of K-Mart (here affectionately known as the Warehouse, or the WadiFadi in Maori) bought a roll of wrapping paper and dressed himself up as a "Present". I am sure that you can see the kind of creative thinking that goes into drinking games in the South Island. One among my group scored extra points for drawing lude pictures with marker as tattoos for his representation of "Popeye".

Two days later we landed in Franz Josef. A quaint town in the middle of the mountains and a must stop on the way to Queenstown. On either side of the RainForest Cafe; the backpackers lodge we stayed in, are mountains. And on top of one of these is the glacier. A glacier mind you in the middle of New Zealand. A country in the Southern Hemisphere. Something my East Coast mind still does not accept. And with my team of ten and my Mother's warning voice whispering to not do stupid things in my ear, I signed my self up for a hike. Up. The. Mountain.

The hike started normally enough. We had a guide. We were given crampons and cold weather gear. I even got issued my own pick axe. But I am still a bit gutted that we didn't get sled dogs. Sled dogs would have been cool.

And up the mountain we started. Our hike began with lush green things being intersected by cool running water coming off the glacier that loomed above us. The glacier is the size of ten football fields and is cold and blue white with a wicked wind coming off the peak.

Looking ahead I could make out workers using picks and shovels digging out stairs into the side of the glacier. I distinctly remember this being the first time since I signed my life away WITHOUT insurance, thinking "Heh, I am about to climb a glacier, this might be stupid". But no worries. I shoved it off and moved on. My group was in a cheerful mood. This part of the trip was all we talked about for the entire four days prior to getting here. We were excited. We were adventurous. We were going to make a personal moment in our lives mean something. It was like Everest without the extra oxygen.

So we climbed, and climbed, and climbed. And I took moments to look around. It was beautiful alright. Incredible even. But my mind whirled. As I looked down into the mouth of a crevice that dove ten miles below and started at the edge of my foot, I was nagged by one thought "I work in IT and hike on the weekends, what the FUCK AM I DOING UP HERE!".

Four hours later; tired and wet and cold and tired and hungry a small group of us came down off the mountain together. We had agreed we had seen enough of ice and would also like to get some hiking done in the rainforest as well. Hiking a glacier is about one of the neatest things I can say I have ever done, but after about four hours of ice, well that is what you are seeing, ICE. So onto the rainforest we went. Which is pretty darn cool as well, that I hiked a rainforest and a glacier in one day.

The next day I could barely walk and sat uncomfortably cramped on the bus ride to Queenstown.

And in Queenstown, the adventure capital of the world, I felt like I was in my college home town. Queenstown is like college, except switch studying for adventure sports. Everything that you or your over adventurous teenage son could ever want to do is on the menu in Queenstown. Bundgy jumping, skydiving, snowboarding, skiing. And as all my mates signed themselves up for doing the bundgy at the largest bundgy in the world (a full 8 seconds of free fall), I stood there like a lump. Like an old women. I got slamblasted for my wimpy-ness and cried "But my Mommy said I couldn't".

And then with a glint in his eye, Greg leaned over and whispered in my ear "But she didn't say anything about the canyon swing" and winked.