A Travellerspoint blog

September 2008

glaciers don't fuck around

and neither do we

all seasons in one day
View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

second half of mid-semester break also a resounding success. kirstin, cody, zack, rajan and i left for queenstown, the adventure capital of the world located on the south island, on sunday morning. for me, kirstin, and zack the transition was abrupt, to say the least: from tropical paradise to christmastown in about 24 hours.

queenstown is tiny and beautiful, sparkling its lights prettily around the edge of a clear deep lake flanked by mountains. the mountains are snowy and on a lovely day thick white clouds wrap their peaks in down. we skipped rocks on the lake, went for a brief walk at twilight, and settled in to our hostel (bumbles, which i emphatically recommend to anyone traveling that way) for an early night.

this was necessary. we woke at 3:30am monday to leave thirty minutes later for the franz josef glacier, nearly a five-hour drive away. our full-day tour in the pouring rain was well worth the drive, wet, and cold. a thick frozen tsunami shouldering its way between two mountains, the franz josef puts the gobi glacier to shame. we wore spikes on our boots and tightened our hoods round our ears. aj, our guide, swung rhythmically at the ice with his pick, slicing shallow steps into uncharted glacier territory. we slid through ice caves and scaled ice stairs. the glacier has all the geographical features of a mountain, down to mountain streams and valleys, and so it's kind of like someone carved a mountain out of hard blue ice. finding your way back down and out is like trying to escape a maze by following every corridor to its end.

kirstin navigates the maze:


near the glacier guides office were the best public toilets i've ever encountered. they opened and locked automatically, informed you via voiceover how much time you had left to pee, dispensed soap/water/hand-drying air automatically, and played an instrumental "what the world needs now" as background. warm, clean, and metallically inviting, i also recommend them to anyone traveling that way.

ten hours of driving, seven-plus of glacier hiking...we collapsed into bed as soon as we got back.

we opted for a half-day at coronet peak on tuesday, which ended up working quite well for me, as i was worn out by 4pm completely. i haven't skied in about five years, and though it didn't take me as long as i'd feared to get my legs back (what little legs i had to begin with, that is), it still took me until the end of the day, by which point i was so wet and exhausted from falling and hauling myself back to my feet that i couldn't have kept going even if we'd had more time. the weather was bad too, awful visibility and snow thickly and wetly falling (THICK and WET: the words of the week), and one of the lifts was closed. zack is normally a skier but decided to board like kirstin and cody, which meant i wasn't the only beginner for the day, so i didn't feel that i was holding everyone up as much as i might have otherwise.

we rewarded ourselves with mexican food that night and an episode or two of "are you afraid of the dark?"

kirstin, zack, and cody did the nevis bungy jump the next morning; i slept in and finished enduring love. yes, lame, but delicious too. it was a beautiful warm day, gentle sun, clear skies. we returned to coronet for another glorious half day, by far the trip's best. the snow was largely slush, but the view was so incredible that it didn't matter. once i worked past my initial soreness i felt more confident by leaps, and what an atmosphere to take a spill to, at worst: the snowed curves of mountain cut by sleek gray rock, and beyond cloudy borders the shock of green, sheep-dotted, where small bright houses took root and lakes shyly mirrored sky. we'd all stop every few minutes to unzip our jackets for a bit of air, lift our sunglasses, and let queenstown wash our eyes.

yesterday was wednesday's opposite, surly and willful, raining in town and up at the remarkables snowing steadily through the dark cloud that cloaked the ski park and washed all our vision to white. really, you just couldn't see. the nice fresh powder alternated all too frequently with chunks of ice, and the trails were either beyond basic or quite-to-extremely challenging. cody and kirstin had a great time, but zack and i were struggling. with better visibility it would have been greatly improved. by the end of the day i was having more fun because i'd decided to try some jumps, and took a few runs where i'd hit them with increasing bravado. got a little air once or twice though i was without question a big wimp still. but i made a start and that's what counts.

point being, i loved skiing again. friends at home take heed, you are being dragged to seven springs this winter and you are going to learn to ski whether you like it or not.

today, of course, was another beauty, but we got on our qantas flight like good little kids and back at the auckland airport waited for hours while zack chewed out air new zealand for losing his wallet. kirstin and i amused ourselves by tossing coins. it was a nice excuse to keep from going back to wellesley and facing the prospect of returning to uni on monday. not a cheery one after such a spectacular break.

Posted by ctamler 06:01 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

da cooks

our rarotongan adventures

View Studying in Auckland on ctamler's travel map.

just got back from rarotonga, one of the islands in the group that makes up the cook islands, somewhere between here (auckland) and hawaii. it's our spring break from uni and this is the ies semester-break field trip. we spent six days there and did a lot of stuff, so i'll have to stick to the highlights, but overall, it was awesome.

my favorite adventures:

1. biking around the island. i think it's about 32km in circumference, and quite flat, so not a bad ride; but the day was unbelievably blustery, and about half the group turned around before we got halfway. the rest of us trooped it out, though. there were about 15 minutes when i thought i wouldn't be able to make it: pedaling right into winds of near-cyclone proportions (that's what we found out later! not exaggeration), you literally feel like you're going nowhere. but it was absolutely worth it, especially since we could hop off any time we needed a break and run down to the beach a few meters away for a dip or a coconut.

2. the cross-island hike with pa, our bleach-dreaded tour guide who always referred to himself in the third person. a pathological liar (or a compulsive storyteller), but a good guide. he took us up and over rarotonga, including to the base of the needle, the huge rock somewhere in the center-ish of the island:


it was quite steep a lot of the way, with twisted tree roots forming natural ladders to clamber on. old, old trees with folds in the trunk like cardboard slabs. curled ferns. a clear stream you could drink from. trees with trunks and branches that curved around in slender parabolae, creating a three-dimensional web. beautiful, strenuous, exhilarating.

3. boggle. zack, kirstin, dan b., and others, we played a lot of boggle. it's a rediscovered addiction.

4. the stars. on the few clear nights, they were breathtaking.

Posted by ctamler 17:05 Archived in Cook Islands Tagged ecotourism Comments (0)

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