So we arrived at the pre-booked time of 8.00am.
After booking in, we picked up our walking boots and our 'ice talonz' (posh metal things that help you walk on the ice). After grabbing a rain coat, hat and gloves we jumped into the bus and headed down to the glacier car park. From there you still have to walk for 45 minutes before you even get to the head of the glacier! We were knackered before we even saw the damn thing! However, once we were on the riverbed approaching it, the glacier looked fantastic. At first it looks small, as though you could run up it in 20 seconds, but as you get closer it gets bigger and more dominant. By the time you are at the head of it you've walked 3km across a barren, rock filled landscape (which surely must be the closest we'll ever get to walking on the moon). We were shattered and we hadn't even touched any ice! As the glacier is constantly moving forward at around 3 - 5 metres a day (very quick) it pushes everything else in its path forward too. This happens to be tonnes of rock and stone, which we all have to climb up before we can see the glacier. Eventually we reach the ice. Due to the heavy rain the night before, guides and ice experts go on ahead and check that the glacier is safe. They also hack steps into the ice where it is too steep to climb. Everytime it rains, the steps wash away.
Up on the ice, we put on our Talonz, grab a ice axe and head into the glacier.
You see, a glacier is not like a town park. Every day it completely changes. Parts melt, break, or rubble covers it. So what we see is also what the scouts see too. Sometimes you'll be walking through the ice and you'll come to an 40 metre ravine which is impossible to cross, or you'll see a huge chunk of ice break off. Sometimes we could hear rocks tubbling down the ice too. It's all very odd. Mother Nature has strange ways of dealing with her drainage too. There were rivers of water running along 'drains' everywhere. Every now and then there would be a huge hole in the ground, where all the water would drain down. You could hear water under the glacier too. Very wierd. As we made our way along the passages and ravines, sometimes we'd have to fit through gaps that were 1 - 2 ft wide, or we'd have to walk over ledges that were as wide as your foot, 10 metres higher than the ice below.
Gareth kind got into using the axe ;-). If we had to wait for the guide to dig steps in to the wall Gareth instantly began hacking away at the floor or a wall. Great stuff. It was like an endless playground.
By lunchtime it was getting wet though, as water was flooding through. Sometimes we were working in windy, cold and wet conditions. Everybody in the group was finding it a lot harder to get motivated. After 6 hours working hard for every step it got very tiring. Everyone was very aware that one slip could mean a serious injury. More than one person put their foot in a very deep puddle (water and ice play tricks - you can't tell if the water is a little or very deep). Putting you foot into water that is only just above freezing must be very nasty. There's no way it will dry too. Helen and Gareth were lucky - we stayed sharp though!
Up on the ice there are no portaloos. And when you need to go, you need to go.
Don't touch yellow ice.
By the end of the day (around 4pm) we were down off the glacier and we were knackered. The 45 minute walk back to the bus was the killer. By that point everybody had blisters / headaches or they were generally wet / cold through. Back at the hut it was great to put on normal socks and shoes!
Although we were absolutely shattered at the end, it was amazing! It was another example of us both doing something that we found very difficult, but we came through! These things always look easy, but often they aren't.
After the glacier "adventure" (as it is billed!) we jumped on the Stray Bus with new driver Jinx. Another driver and another 20 odd people to get to know! Most people stay on the same bus and become good friends, but as Helen and Gareth jump off a lot we meet stacks more people!
The bus took us down to Haast, the last accessible town on that stretch of coast. From there we headed to the camp site - Haast Beach.
Stray tend to take us to random places! Normally they're off the beaten track and run by very odd people!
Tonight was no different! As it was bonfire night the others headed down to the beach and lit a bonfire, but we were just too tired after our mammoth trek!
NZ walking terminology:
Trek: 1 day walk
Tramp: walk last more than 1 day. In NZ they normally head off on 3 - 5 day walks. Because they are mad.
Hut: Place on walk (usually in middle of no-where for tramper to seek refuge).
Mad: New Zealand trampers.