March 4 - Wanaka to Fox Glacier (300 k)

Odo reading = 47801

Actual distance yesterday, 111km. At the Wanaka Inn, we breakfast, torturing the ducks by not giving them anything. The sun rises over Lake Wanaka, reflecting the low clouds. It's an easy briefing, 250km through the Haast Pass. We head out, north-east through the Lake District, along Lake Hawea. Photo-op's abound. The road lifts up through a small pass, and we parallel Lake Wanaka. We pass through Makaroa, and are now away from the plains, and into dense vegetation.

We pull off the road, and go to see the Blue Pools. This is a nature hike (downhill all the way) through the moss-covered forest - the first forest I've been in, here. The pools are cold, glacial melt, and reflect the sky over a white rock bottom. Sandflys abound - the plaque at the top warned about that . We have to cross a "swing bridge" (foot suspension bridge - "! Limit 5 Persons"), and there is a lovely boardwalk, with little signs about the greenery we are seeing. The Blue Pools are just that - a blue I have never seen in water. Then we walk back up to the road (Hey! Now it's uphill all the way!). My new riding boots are warm and comfy for riding, but these boots aren't made for walking.

We go through Haast Pass, and descend 800 meters in the next 5 k. This is an excellent brake test. Remember I said the vegetation had turned lush and green? Well, it's now like the forest scenes from "Magnum, P.I." - a curtain of vibrant green that throbs with life. I see a "Road Narrows" sign ahead - "How?" I think. The plant life now comes down to the white line - there is no shoulder.

We have lunch in Haast Beach, on the shores of the Tasman Sea. We gas up at the last station for 120k, and head north-east, towards Fox Glacier. We are proceeding along, green on our right, white beach and surf on the left, and the glorious blue sky above. At a rest stop above an (almost) deserted beach, Holger strips off and dives into the Tasman. He says it was mostly cold, with strong waves.

The next stop is the base of the Fox Glacier itself. Someone told me it was an "easy hike" to the base. Yeah. I think perhaps it would be easier if I did more walking and less sitting in my normal day. And there's the boots. I manage to get up close enough to see the base - and decide that that is close enough for today. You know, for all that talk about "clear, pure, glacier water", it's a rocky and dusty muck. We see no Keas in the parking lot, either - I am kind of disappointed. Keas are an endangered species of parrot native to NZ - we have received many warnings that they will try to eat motorcycle seats. No wonder they're endangered. I wanted to at least see them try to eat someone else's seat.

From there, we proceed to the "Fox Glacier Resort" - the best hotel in town, because there's no competition. It's sort of 1 star compared to Queenstown, but it's O.K. We are scheduled to take a helicopter ride to the top of the glacier at 6:00, so I change and go to the helicopter place. Bad weather (fog) comes in on top of the mountain, so we agree to check again at 6:30. We go, en masse, across the street to the Neve Cafe, and have coffee or fruit juice, and wait. I get some film at the general store - I only have 4 rolls left. But I came with 20 rolls, and I arrived only 8 days ago? This country is too darned photogenic. At 6:30, the news comes that the weather has cleared - we can go. Renee, Jurgen, Ulrich, Silke and I jump into the chopper and take off. It's very smooth. We fly up the glacier, and land on the snowfield at the top. You can see the crevasses and falls caused by the movement of the ice. We fly back, and have dinner.

On the drive down from Haast Pass, I was struck but the thought that I will never be free of New Zealand.  It is a place that I find attractive on so many levels, I will always hear it's siren call. My family tree has Irish, Scottish and Welsh in it - all of these peoples originated in the mountains. So there are mountains in my blood, but not in my life.

I mean to do this update, but David and Christian and I spend the night talking. One of our topics: what can we do to get jobs here. We also chat about the changing face of technology, and what we can do with it. The only Internet connection in town is a $2.00/9 minutes AOL connection. John, Alfred, Ulrich and Holger come back into the lounge from the bar, and we spend 15 minutes looking at my web site. They seem to like it, so it's off to my little bed.