A Travellerspoint blog

February 2008

Accra, Ghana

We’re not in Kansas anymore…

semi-overcast 88 °F

The plane arrived in Ghana and we were greeted by a blanket of heat as we descended the stairs to a waiting bus on the tarmac. The heat was less stifling than we expected, thanks to a seasonal phenomena known as the Harmattan, a dry and dusty West African trade wind that blows from the Sahara into the Gulf of Guinea. It carriers sand and dust that blocks out the sun like a fog. Even with that, it was over 90°, and humid. We grabbed our bags, made our way through customs and to the curb, where our official greeter, “Uncle Freddy” stood by with Dennis, his driver and trusty sidekick. We are here visiting Fred and Anna Adams, Carol’s sister and her husband. Fred works for Chevron in Accra, has been here for two years, and is working on bringing fuels and natural gas to Ghana from Nigeria. Fred and Anna live in the Accra suburb of East Legon in a great house that easily manages all of us, Fred, Anna and the folks that work for them – which is very typical for an expat. In fact, employing local Ghanaians is required by the government for expats.
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The contrast in this East Legon neighborhood is something that you wouldn’t see in a developed nation, but is quite typical in Africa. Next to this great house that we are staying in is a tin shack with a family living in it full time. Chickens roam the yard and each morning the family bathes themselves in the yard. Children will be raised to adulthood in this house, and those children could become Doctors or Lawyers. People emerge from these tiny tin shacks dressed, pressed, and starched to the nines, ready to go to work. A similar home is just across the street. This is just the way it is here, and it can be seen all over Accra. It’s not considered strange. It just is. Another thing that “just is” are construction projects that seem to never end. Beautiful homes rise in the neighborhood and then seem to stop making progress. They’ll make progress eventually, just not now. Skeletons of incomplete homes and buildings punctuate the landscape and this isn’t considered at all bizarre. It just is. Another thing that “just is” is fluctuating water and power supply. The power goes out regularly and every large home has a generator to maintain power. The power doesn’t just stop. The lights start to dim, and then eventually the power goes completely. The same thing happens with water. It just runs out and comes back at another time. Folks don’t fret about it. They just make sure their schedule accommodates this kind of thing, and they don’t get upset when it happens. It is expected. It just is.
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Another thing that is expected is traffic. There are 2.2 million people in Accra and the roads and infrastructure struggle to accommodate them. Streets are paved, then not. Streets appear to be “through”, and then just stop. Lanes are simply suggestions which are largely ignored by the locals, and traffic lights sit lifelessly, without power, encouraging intersection anarchy. With all that traffic, the stop and go, the near misses, and the stifling heat, people wave to each other calmly as they let drivers squeeze ahead of them into the lane, then patiently waiting for the next five feet of movement. Whether in a car, a cab or a tro-tro (a large shared taxi van) they just patiently wait. You won’t find road rage in Ghana. It takes a long time to go anywhere, or do anything, and people expect it. Man, could LA use a dose of that or what? Something that complicates the traffic situation is the lack of super markets or super stores that might have everything you need. There are no home depots, kmarts, best buys, etc.. If you want to get some nails, you might have to go to the other side of town, which could take more than an hour. We’ve been part of this routine now for over a week. This isn’t a convenient life. Again, in sharp contrast, and Accra is a contrast Anna can walk across the street and buy soap, eggs, salt, and other staples, just by walking to the neighbor's little "shed of commerce" across the street.
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Something that the Expats apparently don’t like, but we love are the “hawkers” on the street corners. Every busy intersection is abuzz with vendors walking and running between lanes of cars with goods for sale. Apples, water bags, toilet paper, mops, ice cube trays, chocolates, magazines, snacks, or whatever you can carry on your head. The hawkers negotiate deals with the folks in the cars, send in the goods and then continue to barter for a mutually agreeable price. The hawkers then chase after the cars to either get the cash or get the goods back if a satisfactory price can’t be negotiated. This works pretty efficiently. We picked up three ice cube trays and two power outlet converters just yesterday.
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The People
A Ghanaian cab driver in New York once told us that we would see the “sweet face of humanity” in Ghana, and he went on to tell us “A little food, a little music, and a little soccer” is all that Ghanaians need. He wasn’t exactly right, but on the whole, the people of Ghana are wonderful. The people are fun, passionate, hard working, and they love life. They love life just like it is here. They don’t wish for a life that we might have in the states because you can get to your store faster, or have 200 kinds of cheese side by side in the grocery store. They appear to like it just the way it is. Esther and Dennis who run the house for Anna and Freddy are great examples of local Ghanaians. They are quick to smile and love to hear us “try” and use the local language called Twi (pronounced Trwee). Of course they both speak excellent English as well, but they speak Ghanaian around each other and we love to try. Esther’s daughter Gifty (a great name!) and her brother Kwamei are at the house quite often and we’ve been playing cards with them, doing homework with them, listening to music, talking soccer, and just hanging out.
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The Africa Cup of Nations
We were very lucky to have our visit coincide with the Africa Cup of Nations soccer tournament. This tournament takes place once every two years, and pits the best teams in Africa against each other. This is Africa’s world cup. This year the tournament was in Ghana, and the semi finals and the finals were being played in Accra. Soccer was everywhere. Anna went on a scalper search for some tickets and at the last minute, we were all able to get tickets to the Ghana vs: Cameroon semi final game. The scalper’s prices were dropping as the game approached and we lucked out. The streets on the way to the semi final were beyond jammed. Hawkers ran between cars selling Ghanaian fan gear; shirts, flags, horns, silly hats, whistles, scarves... The Ghanaian team is called the “Black Stars” and this night, Accra was going Black Star crazy. As we approached the stadium, we had to get out of the car and walk. Traffic just stopped and we were passed by masses of Ghanaians walking the streets, either going to the game or crowding around televisions that glowed in shops fronts. The air was damp and hot, and thick with the smells of smoke and meat cooking over open fires in the parking lot. Dusk was settling in. African rhythms boomed from drums while bands and DJs played fantastic Ghanaian and Cameroonian music. Huge crowds danced and fires burned while the music played. We separated into twos and made way to our entry gates. Parker and I had seats together and we smashed ourselves into the queue to get in. The game was starting and we were still in line. We pushed forward and I swept a pickpockets hand away from my pockets, we saw a south African bloke throw a man to the ground to protect his friends backpack. We were told it might be rough. It was. We made our way to the seats while the game was in full swing, and the crowd was so loud you couldn’t hear your own voice. At half time, it was still zero-zero, and they fans were jubilant. About 25 minutes into the second half, Cameroon scored, the collective Ghanaian crowd audibly exhaled, followed by an uneasy silence. The rest of the game was painful to watch as Cameroon dived all over the pitch , feigning injuries. On the way to meet the others, the streets were calm but crowded, and resignation could be read on the face of the locals. Esther was very upset and was holding back tears. She was a good proxy for all Ghanaians. The excitement waned a bit in the city after that evening, but it was still “the cup” and the city was still excited. Freddy and I went to a sports bar for the final, and saw a group of young men from Cameroon jump from the crowd and begin playing with the band in the post game. Cameroon lost to Egypt, but the Cameroonians were partying as if they won, and hearing their rhythms and the ease at which they maneuvered through complex polyrhythmic chanting and drumming absolutely blew my mind.
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Golfing in Ghana
Fred and I played a round of golf at the only “grass” course in Accra. I use the term grass rather loosely, because there wasn’t much of it. The greens were like rough, the sand traps were more mud than sand, and the fairways played like a hazard. Shacks lined some holes on the course, while shared TVs glowed with the Ghana cup consolation game, which would eventually establish Ghana as the third place team. Our caddies were awesome, and they steered Fred and I around the course, avoiding army ants and termite mounds. I lost only one ball thanks to a stellar forecaddie. It was unbelievably hot and humid and you could hear Ghana scoring as neighborhoods broke out in shouts at each Ghanaian goal.
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The Market Places
Cynthia is one of Anna and Freddy’s gate guards (yes the house has barbed wire and a manned gate), and she has a special talent. She is an incredible seamstress. Anna asked if she would make some clothes for us and she gladly said “Yes!” She asked to see a pair of my pants, and said she could make a new pair just like it. We just had to go shop for fabric. So Esther Dennis, Anna, Carol and I made our way to the market. This is the Ghanaian peoples market where you can buy fabrics in one shop, buttons in another shop, thread in yet another shop, Ghanaian hip hop in another and so on. This market reminded us a bit of the Barkhor in Tibet. Crowded and tight streets, lined with small shops, snaked their way through alleys and walk ways. A few large streets crisscross the market slowly transporting goods in open lorries. We cruised the markets and had an awesome time. The people welcomed us into their shops and dickered with us on prices. Negotiating the deals was half the fun. The other half was walking the market to the shouts of “Abrone!” (meaning foreigner), and shaking hands with Ghanaian shop owners and their friends. People in these markets loved to see us, and you could tell by reactions that it was very novel and unique to have white people in this market. We keep remembering our NYC cab driver telling us “You will see the sweet face of humanity” … indeed I think we did
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Posted by Blakei 09:20 Archived in Ghana Tagged family_travel Comments (2)

Emirates Airlines and Dubai

Man – that was a long flight

sunny 90 °F

Well, if you have to take a long flight, Emirates is the Airline to take. This, by any measure was a long flight and thus warrants its own blog entry. The service was great, the food was fantastic, the kids were treated like special little citizens, and the seats were very comfortable. We flew business class because we knew it was going to be brutal. We flew 3 hours to Sydney, 14 hours to Dubai, and then 9 hours to Accra, Ghana. The flights, including layovers, wore on for 30 hours gate-to-gate. Dubai was our introduction into the region. The airport was immense and people from all over Africa, the Middle East, and Europe lay strewn across the floor of the terminal, sleeping with their heads against the walls. With thousands of others, we pushed carts of carry-on luggage through the terminal through the masses avoiding those sleeping on the floor.
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We arrived at sunrise and the city loomed large, or maybe I should say stretched tall, rising out of a hanging dust cloud. Parker was in heaven, and had been chattering about the Dubai skyscrapers since the beginning of the trip. What we saw from the sky and the airport was pretty shocking and certainly isn’t replicated anywhere else in the world. One building actually stands double the height of the empire state building and we could see this from the airport terminal. Other clusters of immense buildings rise all over the city in what I’m sure is anything but a random pattern. As we left the city and the airspace, it seemed really odd to see all of this incredible building, and then seeing how quickly and abruptly it stops - running into vast stretches of sand. On one side of town, the view conjured up visions of Vegas, and the other side, Miami. Both on steroids.dubaiblog01.jpg
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Posted by Blakei 05:31 Archived in United Arab Emirates Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Dunedin and Christchurch

Finishing off the South Island

We scheduled two days in Dunedin because it is the only real coastal town on the south island we would visit on the trip. Dunedin is known for two things world wide. The first is the incredible surf they get. They get swells from arctic storms that are gigantic, powerful and cold. The second is the steepest street in the world. It rises at a 35 degree angle. There are a lot of charming things about Dunedin, and it IS the oldest most historic city from a European perspective in New Zealand, but after falling in love with Queenstown, it’s hard to admit that we really just wanted to be back Queenstown.
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It rained during our visit and it was a little chilly, but we still got in a couple of nice dinners, a good surf session, visited the steepest street in the world and we visited a gorgeous place called “Natures Wonders”.
Natures Wonders is a converted farm that now is a very nice a wildlife sanctuary – though sheep still roam. This isn’t like Deer Park Heights. It’s a gorgeous place that acts as a preserve, (not a petting zoo) for the endangered yellow eyed penguin, and a breeding and birthing ground for fur seals. We saw a few slow-moving Yellow eyed penguins, a few blue penguins, as well as hundreds of baby fur seals that had just been born. Heaven for Griffin, though I thought we were going to crash on the way to the place as the lanes were at times one lane wide. We were driven around in 8 wheel vehicles (like the old Banana Split mobiles) to access the rugged and untouched coast line. The boys loved that.
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Parker and I walked up Baldwin Street, the steepest street in the world according to the Guinness boo of world records, and it was incredibly steep. Unfortunately, somehow I nuked all of the pictures of our hike, so you’ll just have to gander at this stock photo to tell.
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The surf was powerful even though it wasn’t all that big, and it was teaming with life. There were so many jelly fish in the water it felt like soup when we were paddling, our hands pulling through hundreds of tiny purple jellies. With the wet suits, we didn’t care too much about the cold or the sea life. Neither of us got stung once.
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Dunedin had a very nice skate park which we had planned to abuse, but after about 15 minutes of skating, the rain came and thus came an end to the skate session. Instead, we toured the local “Speights” brewery, which had become my favorite beer in New Zealand, and as cheesy as the tour was, the boys enjoyed it, tending bar and pouring a couple of pints for the first time. A bizarre dichotomy in New Zealand: A parent can hand a 12 year old a beer and they can drink it legally, but that same parent can’t bring that 12 year old to an R rated movie, under any circumstance (e.g. American Gangster).
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Christchurch
We stayed in Christchurch for two days just to get ready for Africa. The drive to Christchurch from Dunedin was unremarkable, and the roads were straight. The land was actually flat for a change – and represented the only coastal plain on the east coast of the island. It felt a bit like the plain between the Ventura river and the Conejo Grade, with a lot less activity. We picked up a couple that was hitchhiking and looked like they were in need of some help. It turns out they were touring the coast in their sail boat, and their engine block cracked. They were now waiting for the repairs which could take the better part of a week or more. Now they just needed a lift to get to the nearest town, which was about 45 kilometers to restock some provisions. We dropped them off and continued north on our flat straight and uneventful road.

When we arrived in Christchurch, we returned the camper and were reunited with our bags and our gear that we had shipped to Christchurch. We washed laundry, and picked up any provisions we needed for our flight out. We also skated a nice skate park, dined at a couple of nice eateries, and strolled the city a bit on foot and on the bus system). One restaurant in particular deserves mention. It was called the Mexican Café, and the Mexican food was better than we get at home in San Luis Obispo, and the tequila selection was one of the best we had ever seen. If you’re in Christchurch, don’t miss it. Christchurch was a bit of an anticlimactic end to our New Zealand itinerary, but frankly, we were ready for the next adventure to start. On Monday we drove to the New Zealand airport with plenty of time to spare and readied ourselves for the longest airline trip we’ve ever taken.
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Posted by Blakei 03:03 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

Queenstown

Our favorite city in New Zealand

sunny 74 °F

It’s unanimous. Queenstown is our favorite city in New Zealand and one of the top places we’ve visited on the trip. We were supposed to make our way down to the Milford sound and Teanau, but we decided to stay extra days in Queenstown instead. It’s just that nice. This place is cool, young, adventurous, active, diverse, international, and it is the adrenaline capital of the world.
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We drove for about 6 hours from the glacier in perfect weather and arrived in Queenstown in the afternoon. Even the drive to Queenstown was nothing short of spectacular, with gorgeous views around what seemed like every corner. We even had some straight roads for a change that bore through valleys of vineyards and fruit trees, where gentlemen vintners were applying their new retirement trade. Given the beauty of the area, the nearby ski fields, the abundance of all things adventure and outdoor, the reasonable real estate prices, as well as a great airport serving the area with 737s and A320s from Qantas and Air New Zealand, it isn’t a surprise that folks are retiring here. We took some shots from the road on our way to Queenstown that speak volumes to the beauty of the area – and this was before we ever made it town.
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When we arrived, we found the little city bustling with activity and our holiday park just a short walk from downtown, and an even shorter walk from the gondola that lifts you to the peak overlooking Queenstown. As we walked into town, paragliders carrying pilot and passenger floated through the sky, having just launched from the top of the gondola. They were landing right next to our holiday park in the elementary school play yard. As you walked downtown, you realize just how young the town is. There are twenty something’s everywhere patrolling the streets and they come from all over the world. Europeans, Australians, Africans, Israelis, Chinese and Japanese can be heard on the streets and in the shops, though all seem to speak English as well. We saw very few young Americans, which bothered us, and we quietly wished more young Americans would leave the US for some cultural immersion in a place like this. The Americans we did see were overweight, retired and in their 60s, and proudly wearing “we’re American” on their sleeves. This also bothered us, and we wondered how a cruise ship could have floated to this land locked city.
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Adventure tour operators filled store fronts all over town and it seemed that virtually anything you wanted to try out was available; horseback riding, paragliding, hang gliding, parachuting, mountain biking, motorcycling, luging, jet boat riding, river sledging, white water rafting, bungy jumping, sky swinging, water skiing, and I probably left out more than I just mentioned. The beauty, along with the adventure tours is what brings all these young people to town.

The Luge:
The first “adventure thing we did was “luging”. Truth be told, it wasn’t all that adventurous, but it was fun nonetheless. We took the gondola to the top of the mountain and took a chair lift further up from there, where we all jumped into wheeled carts that rocket down a cement “luge track”. They had a “scenic track” and a “fast track”, the prior being a little dangerous due to all of the slow pokes taking in the scenery, while we just wanted to race. Old folks, young kids and everything in between were shooting down the tracks and only a few times did any of us almost go over the side.
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Ride of the Rings:
Queenstown is Lord of the Rings Country. The mountains, valleys, hillsides and forests, that surround Queenstown are the backdrop for many of the movies’ scenes. There are many location tours, most by car, some by plane and a few by horseback. We thought it most appropriate to take the tour on horseback, since that is how the actors travelled on screen, so we chose a tour called “Ride of the Rings” which departed from the tiny and quaint town of Glenorchy and trekked through forest and hills and valleys. Some of the horses were actually from the movie. Our guide was a guy named “Soap” and he knew more about the Lord of the Rings than anyone we have met, as well as being one of the few folks who can lay claim to actually being in the movie. He was an uruk-hai. He showed us sites on the way to the ride, on the way home from the ride, though a nice young woman named Ellie actually took us on the trek while Soap arranged all of our horses for us and made sure Ellie had all she needed. Soap was absolutely awesome with the kids and we invited him over for a drink after the tour. The tour was cool, and the kids could actually spot scenes from the movie before they were pointed out. “Here is where so and so was shot”, and “That is where the pippin hid from the Uruk-hai”, and “The Orks ran down that hill!”, and the guide would say “Yes that’s right kids, now shut up and let me point that stuff out” :-). The horses were easy to ride, excepting Carol’s that had a bit of a mean streak, and kept nipping at the other horses as he jockeyed for the front position.
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Deer Park Heights
Queenstown sits on the shores of Lake Waikatipu, the largest lake in New Zealand. It’s a glacier fed lake, filled by cascading glacial rivers throughout the region. On the other side of the river is an area known as “Deer Park Heights”. Soap asked us if we would like to take a trip to Deer Park Heights and he picked us up and gave is a personal tour of the area. Deer Park Heights is a privately owned farm of sorts that is now sort of a gigantic petting zoo. Deer, Alpacas, Pigs, Buffalo, Yaks, Elk, etc roam the hills free as you drive through the park on dirt paths. As you enter, you pour yourself a big can of deer pellets – which all the animals love. Shake the can, and herds of whatever is nearby start running toward you. It’s a little unnerving, but it was really cool having Alpacas, Miniature horses, and deer eating out of our hands. Some animals even stuck their heads in the cars to get a little pellet action
The other thing Deer Park heights has are numerous sites from Lord of the Rings including the cliff from which Aragorn fell, after being attacked by a warg. We took all of these sites in, including a couple of sets from the upcoming Wolverine, movie. Deer Park Heights also has the best sunset views of Queenstown you will ever see. We took many photos as the sun dove, trying to capture the light over Lake Waikatipu. At one point while we were snapping away, a group of male deer approached and I lightly walked toward them to get a picture from a distance that is almost too close to believe.
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Kowabunga!
We saved the adrenaline rush for the last day in Queenstown. When we jumped off the tower in Auckland, it was actually in preparation for a bungy jump in Queenstown. Once again, we all did it. It was actually quite fun and while it was a little scary, it wasn’t as visually terrifying as the jump in Auckland. The boys and I jumped off something called the ledge Bungy at the top of the Gondola in Queenstown, which is only 47 meters of Bungy, but it feels like every bit of the 400 meters you are above the town. Carol bungy’d off of the Kawarau bridge with the intent of getting dunked in the water at the bottom, but as luck would have it, her bungy cord didn’t make it all the way to the water. All of us let out a hoot or a scream as we plunged. She actually did say Kowabunga when she jumped. It's on the video. The boys did us one better by dropping from the sky on something called a sky swing, which they both maintain was much more scary than the bungy jump. After watching them drop about 80 feet or so before the rope actually starts to swing, and after hearing their screams, I believe ‘em.
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Posted by Blakei 08:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (0)

The South Island Begins

... and the Franz Josef Glacier

64 °F

We departed the Ferry in Picton on the Northern tip of the South Island and headed toward the Abel Tasman National Park. The Park is supposed to be spectacular when the weather is good, with beautiful aqua blue bays and lovely beaches, perfect for kayaking, hiking, and just lounging in the sun. As luck would have it though, on the way toward Abel Tasman, it started to rain and it became apparent that it was the beginning of a real storm. We ended up pulling into a holiday park in Nelson, a pretty big town about 100km from Abel Tasman. I couldn’t bare driving another two hours in the rain. The roads to Nelson from the Ferry had been the curviest of the trip and we were averaging about 40km per hour. It’s a strange feeling to drive by looking out your side window, or in some extreme corners, looking over your shoulder just to see what the next stretch of road looks like. As we ate dinner in the camper, we began rethinking our visit to Abel Tasman entirely. It would not be fun in a pouring rain, so we decided to head for our next stop, the Franz Josef Glacier. The next day we drove through a steady and at times heavy rain for about 400km. The roads were better but still I white knuckled it with some pretty scary traffic, and even a single lane bridge that actually was shared by the railroad – and this was the good road. We arrived in the tiny town of Franz Josef in the early evening.
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The Franz Josef Glacier
We pulled into the “Rain Forest Holiday Park” in Franz Josef just as the skies were starting to part and the rain slowed to a minute drizzle. Now, you might be asking why would something in a town with a Glacier be called “rain forest” anything? It’s a pretty crazy thing, but the central west side of New Zealand gets hammered by rain. The mountains rise to 10,000 feet within a few km of the coast, so Tasman Sea storms dump literally meters of rain as the clouds get pushed upward by the mountain range. The saying in town is “We measure our rain in meters”, and we heard that a few times as we were told that they get over 5 meters of rain every year. This rain has sprouted a beautiful and lush rain forest over the years with beautiful ferns, grasses, massive and mossy trees, broad leafed and otherwise. Our Camper felt like a fern bar inside – which was pretty cool. You would have no idea that a massive and still advancing Glacier is only 3 km from town.
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Hiking the Glacier was the reason we came here. Our first day in town, we went to the Glacier museum and Imax and learned about the area and the Glacier. We booked a guided hike for the next day. The hike was called a “3/4 day hike” which put you on the Glacier for about 4 hours. Luck was on our side this day for weather. In a town that gets over 15 feet of rain a year, this morning’s sky was a stunning blue, interrupted only by misty clouds clinging to the mountain sides. We met the guides and our fellow hikers that morning and put on the hiking gear provided. The guiding company provided boots, a jacket and crampons (spike attachments) for walking on the ice. We piled onto a bus that took us over the milky blue glacial river to the park entrance, chattering excitedly, where we all disembarked and began tramping toward the base of the glacier. Unfortunately, the path to the glacier had been washed out by heavy rains, so we walked on newly cut paths, that required us to scale up and down ladders affixed to rock faces, just to get to the river bed. Most of this walk was in lush rain forest, with cliffs covered with waterfalls, vegetation and ferns, climbing up to the now-clearing mist above. We then tramped for about 2km across the river and toward the Glacier base. Huge ice blocks, some the size of cars, lay in the river from an explosion last week where the snout of the Glacier gave way to a flood of water and Ice. Our guide paused and pointed to the face of the glacier to show us some tiny little black dots that turned out to be hikers making their way across the glacier ahead of us. “We will be there in an hour or two” we were told.
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We strapped and re-strapped our crampons on to our boots and began slogging up the glacier. The face of the Glacier was covered in shale and was a difficult trudge. It looked like a mountain of Rock, but just under the layer of Rock was frozen ice. Ice that is the densest on the planet. So dense that it glows blue when uncovered by snow or rock. We climbed up perhaps 100 feet before we reached ice that you might viscerally associate with a glacier. From here, we climbed a ladder of ice and clung to a chain that had been hammered into the ice. We climbed for hundreds of meters, between crags, over crevasses using a ladder, even through a cave, and we continued upward. We stopped quite often, catching our wind, as the guide pointed out glacier facts. He showed us how high the Glacier had been over the past decades and how far it had advanced in the past few years. The glacier was advancing meters per day only a few years ago, but had slowed now, yet it was still advancing. In the ice age of course it had reached the ocean which was about 10 km to the west. A glacier is like a frozen waterfall we were told, pushing itself down the mountain and the more snow that accumulates on the top of the mountain, the more mass to push the glacier along.
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We reached the peak of our trek, and rested by a little glacial waterfall where we filled our water bottles with real glacier water – which was tasty and cool to say the least. We could look up toward the mountain’s peaks and see the glacier flowing downward. There were cliffs of ice above us, and it was nearly impossible to judge the scale of these cliffs until a helicopter appeared in front of one, looking more like a gnat on a refrigerator door than a helicopter carrying hikers. It was hard to believe that we were on a glacier and near sea level with crampons on our feet and plenty of air filling our lungs, when only three months earlier we were hiking in Tibet at 17,000 feet, wearing our tennis shoes, but gasping for air.
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It felt like the hike back to the Bus would never end, and while it was only 9km total, it seemed so long with rented boots and crampons on our feet. It had taken its toll on all of the hikers, and the bus was eerily silent on the way back to town, with each of the hikers looking glazed over and tired. Now, the guides and the crew that had been clearing and cutting ice paths that day chattered excitedly, while all us hikers sat slack jawed and exhausted, remembering the beauty of whatwe had seen that day and what our aching feet had accomplished.

Posted by Blakei 08:56 Archived in New Zealand Tagged family_travel Comments (1)

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