Thursday, September 10, 2009

Lake Mapourika and Franz Josef Glacier

Yesterday dawned cloudy and a bit rainy, so we were immediately confronted with the question of whether we should hike the glacier or kayak on the lake. Hiking the glacier is fun and provides lots of great views in any weather, so we tried to join the morning tour but discovered that they were fully booked. The only thing available was kayaking on Lake Mapourika, which is usually perfectly reflective (see photos from an optimal day):

However, on a day like yesterday, it was pretty choppy and rough. Luckily our guide, Wayne, was amazing and gave us a splash-guard for the kayak, hand guards, and warm hats! It rained a bit and the lake itself wasn’t reflective, but we went up into a lagoon and it became super calm. The view was amazing!! IT WAS SO FUN. The mountains in the background were totally stunning and the entire experience was great!

We got back to the hostel around 2 and napped for a couple hours until our dinner of soup and bread. I do love the free soup we get here, it’s super tasty and tomorrow we’re going to make grilled cheese sandwiches to go with it. We also bought some fixings for s’mores and made them in the hostel’s fireplace, followed by watching the movie Ever After. We have a VCR in our room, and it’s only us 4 even though the room fits 6, and we have a kitchen, our own shower, and a bathroom.


Today we hiked the glacier!! They gave us rainproof pants, a jacket, clampons, and boots, and we spent about 5 hours out on the glacier and surrounding area. The Franz Josef glacier is one of only 3 in the world that’s surrounded by a temperate rainforest – that’s right, a RAINFOREST. It was unbelievable. It looked like the mountains of Hawaii or Taiwan, except that we were standing on a block of ice millions of years in the making. Truly incredible! I was basically open-mouthed in shock and awe the whole time, I just can’t get over the fact that we hiked a glacier in the rainforest while in New Zealand!

Our guide, Cliff, was a character and very nice and informative.

The hike itself wasn’t too strenuous, and we never got too cold. I wish they had given us gloves, but apparently they “aren’t necessary” for a half-day hike. We definitely could’ve used them though, since many of the ice-cut stairs were so steep that we had to hold on to ropes to keep from sliding off!

Drinking water from a glacial pool:

There’s also the possibility of seeing an All Blacks game – New Zealand’s rugby team – when we’re on the North Island!!! We’re going to have to adjust our plans a bit but it would be totally worth it and super amazing to see a rugby game live. And the All Blacks are one of the best teams in the world! They still have $90 tickets available so we’re going to try to buy those once we figure out if a bus can take us there in time. AHHH!! Today was just an awesomely epic day, and things seem to have worked out really well so far. This island is amazing. I could seriously live here! And there's still so much more to come!

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