Sweet Franzy Joseph

Friday, February 23, 2007

It was a six-hour stint from Wanaka to Franz Joseph, home of the Franz Joseph glacier, ice climbing. We stopped midway for lunch at a salmon farm and had some salmon related luncheon paninis and such before arriving in Franz. When we got there we stopped by the activity centre to book our ice climbing and other options for those not interested. Unfortunately, there was only one spot left. I offered mine (quite reluctantly to be honest about it) to Lauren2 since she is a climber and though I had been looking forward to it since I heard about it she probably wanted to do it more. But there were others who also wanted to and she was also reluctant to accept, so we did a draw for the spot. Well, I won but felt pretty bad about it. Still, I suppose it was fair and in any case I was going ice climbing the next day.

The other Lauren swung by and invited us boys to happy hour at a nearby pub and so we went along and had some drinks with them. And then went elsewhere and grabbed some appetizers and dinner and, yes, more drinks. I went home a bit earlier with Lauren and Chelsea because I had to be ready for ice climbing at 7:45 and was in bed by 11:00, though I watched the last episode of the Office I’d downloaded before bed (Dwight and Oscar return). Chris came back towards the end and we watched one more episode, so I suppose I was asleep by midnight. In any case, I don’t know if I was nervous about sleeping in, ice climbing itself, or the room was hot and poorly ventilated (probably all of the above) but I got no sleep. Every hour or two I was up and debating going back to sleep or not, even though I’d eventually look at the clock and it would only be, say, 3 AM.

I got up to do some ice climbing on time regardless and hurriedly threw breakfast and lunch (bread and jam) into a container and walked over to the activity centre. We packed up our stuff, though I forgot to grab a rain jacket because I had the wrong-sized boots, and drove to the glacier. It was about 3 km to the glacier through rain forest and along the glacial stream all, I stress, in glorified ski boots. Not comfortable. Well, maybe they were a ski/snowboard hybrid but my point remains. We got to the base which I discovered had a staircase carved into it. Not my idea of ice climbing, I joked to myself. Not that the group was not friendly, they were all Scottish and quite nice, but I wasn’t up for being the outgoing one at that point. Remember I’d had no sleep, and anyone who knows anything about me knows that early mornings and bad sleeps are a bad mix.

We hiked another km up and into the glacier, arriving finally at our base where we’d do our climbing and set up. All said, we did 5 climbs, the last of which was actually greater than 90 degrees of slope. It was a lot of fun, though I think I like rock climbing better, and pretty demanding. I did the whole thing without ever falling though there was at least once where I was dangling by a single ice pick. It was a definite workout, however, and by the time we finished climbing, hiked back down the glacier and found ourselves at the van I was definitely beat. Still, we stopped by a pub on the way and I bought a drink for the guide that gave me his rainjacket and one of the guys on the trip that owns a pizzeria in Glasgow bought us all some pizza to munch on. All in all, I had a great time with these guys.

I didn’t bother with dinner back at the hostel because I pretty much crashed right through it. That is, after I cleaned up the sprinkled hearts and fake love letter off my bed and had a good laugh. Brad’s mom had sent him some valentine’s day stuff which I instantly recognized, so they didn’t actually fool me, but it was hilarious for all involved. I did wake up later (or else this particular blog post would have a lot more zzzzzzz’s) feeling refreshed and took a sauna with a few of the others which only helped more. That night the plan was a Lord of the Rings marathon which I definitely didn’t have the stamina for, but it was fun to sit in the TV room with everyone watching the first movie. Quite a few of them stayed up for the second (maybe half left) including Kate, Anthony, Brad, Chris, Dustin, and myself. Only Anthony attempted the third movie, though even he was unable to survive all those endings.

The next morning we left Franz Joseph behind and made our way up the coast to Arthur’s Pass, which brought us back into Christchurch once more. This was our last trip in the vans and we all were feeling a little sentimental. We stopped for lunch en route at a small coastal town and Norm, Chris, Brad, and myself grabbed some meat pies and sat on a really strange beach with all sorts of weird wooden sculptures and debris strewn about. We stopped again in Arthur’s Pass and got some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had from the same place that we’d stopped with Mike coming through with Chris, Simon, and myself a few weeks ago. Excellent choc-o-mint and caramel ice cream. And, something that has been somewhat lacking in my mind, we stopped again about 40 km past the town at a cave stream and wandered through it from one end to another. It was unguided and really quite a cool thing to do to break up the trip – I don’t imagine there’s anywhere else in the world where they’d just let you wander into a cave stream that could easily flood you out without waivers and ropes and so on. It was really only Brad, Chris, and myself that wanted to do it. I think Katie was on the fence because it was drizzling and cold, but we managed to get most of the people reluctantly on board. Well worth the stop and I hope this is the start of more off-the-beaten-path activities. We drove on and Norm passed Katie in Christchurch which meant I got to navigate us back to the YMCA, where we would spend our last two days in New Zealand before departing for Australia.

View Franz Joseph Photos

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