Glacier Mints and a small resurrection...

I have come to the unlikely conclusion that Russell Kirkpatrick* is a pocket genius. When I say ‘pocket genius’ I don’t mean that he does new and exciting things in his trouser pockets. That would be unwholesome, especially whilst driving. But there’s certainly a whiff of the clever about the man** -- remember my iPod died the death of a thousand swearwords yesterday? Well Russell managed to bring it back from the dead with a small amount of fiddling with the buttons. Also known as a ‘reset’. I didn’t even know you could do something like that with an iPod Nano, but you can, and it works too.

So I am with tunes again! Hurrah!

This meant I was able to join in with the ‘play-weird-music-in-the-car-athon’ competition as Russell drove us out to the West Coast and up to the Fox Glacier.

Eight o’clock in the morning and Arrowtown was absolutely sodding freezing. A real nipple-stiffener of a day, complete with thick blue shadows and vast plumes of smoky breath. it’s really dry in this part of New Zealand, so the cold’s deceptive. It’s a dry cold so you don’t really notice it to begin with, not until it’s leached all your body heat away, leaving you shivering like a jelly on a spin-drier. Good job I’ve got the special naughty hiking socks I bought yesterday, or I’d probably have lost a dozen toes by now.

The road out to the west was crap, winding away under a thick pall of dense grey cloud that hid most of the mountains from view. What’s the bloody point of coming half way around the world to ‘Ooh!’ and ‘Ahhh!’ at the scenery if you can’t even see the sodding stuff? Grumble, grumble.

The clouds stayed with us for mile after mile, until finally -- and all at once -- they buggered off and everything was blue skies and spectacular vistas again. I got to see my first sub-tropical rain forest too. It’s huge. Mile after mile of untouched virgin forest***, all dusted with frost and deep-frozen at its heart. Next time I’m going to try tropical rain forest, none of this ‘sub’ malarkey. It’d be warmer on the nip-nops if nothing else.

But the point of this six hour driveathon was to get to the Fox Glacier in time to see it in all its icy goodness. And we did. Sort of.

We took a helicopter tour up the glacier, which included scaring the living bejesus out of a mountain goat at 9,000 feet, and then chasing it along the ridge with the rotor blades. Imagine it’s Cary Grant, the Cook Mountain is a corn field, and the helocopter’s a crop duster with a machine gun fitted to it, and you’ve sort of got the picture. The damn goats up here must have Velcro feet, because the one we saw was defying the laws of physics in general, and gravity in particular.

Then we landed on the top of Fox Glacier, had a poke about for ten minutes, then were shepherded back in the helicopter for the trip back to base. About 40 minutes start to finish. And as Russell and I still hadn’t had our fill of all things glacial, we drove up the valley to view the great icy beast from up close...

Or at least we tried to. The closest you can get to the glacier’s snout is now about half a mile, due to two tourists getting themselves squashed with falling chunks of ice. The joys of Health and Safety. So we never got anywhere near the actual Fox Glacier, instead we had to make do with standing on a muddy path behind a rope cordon, swearing curses of doom down upon the Department of Conservation. Really disappointing, given that this was what we’d just driven six hours to see.

Poop. POOP, I say!

* Or Russell Fitzpatrick as he likes to be know while planning, or carrying out a heist, just in case the rozzers are after him.
** Along with other, more recently documented whiffs.
*** Though the boy next door has been peeking through it’s bedroom window, trying to catch a glimpse of it in its bra and pants.

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