After tackling NZ’s North Island, I spent 2 weeks on the southern island. The South Island has more snow and bigger mountains. This is all good in my books.
Some classic NZ scenery. How beautiful is this?? Lake Matheson doing its best impression of a mirror for the Southern Alps.
NZ has one of the most accessible glaciers in the world: The Franz Josef. One can go walking on the glacier, which would be pretty cool, but I have walked, skied, and slept outside on many glaciers. Instead, I signed up for something I have never done — ice climbing. In short, ice climbing is awesome! I suspected I would like it and was not wrong. Now that I’m in my 30s, I know myself quite well :)
To ice climb one wears crampons on the feet and weilds axes in each hand. I’m telling you, it is hard to feel more badass than when you are holding two ice axes. Give it a go sometime, and if you don’t feel damn cool, I want to know. I think it’s impossible not to. Anyway, you just start kicking the front points of your crampons into the ice, swing your axes into the ice and up you go. In a way, it is easier than rock climbing, I find. When climbing rock, I often spend a lot of time searching for a good hold. On the ice wall, I just pick a spot and drive my axe into it. Bam. Instant hold.
As ridiculous as it sounds, most of your weight is supported by a few 1 inch spikes on the front of your crampons that you kick into the ice. You must put so much trust into so little metal…
One more ice climbing pic because I liked it so much. Here I’m trying to show off and look at cool as possible.
As you may know, bungy jumping was invented in NZ. I’ve already been bungy jumping, so I told myself I wouldn’t do it in New Zealand. But, the Nevis, at 134m, is the 2nd highest jump on the planet. Plus, all my friends were doing it (aren’t group social dynamics amazing?) So I jumped! I was scared out of my tree but I tried to play it cool, cracking the odd joke here and there. The ~ 8 seconds of freefall were awesome! If you want to watch:
I had been looking forward to skiing the Southern Alps of NZ since I left Canada. It was one of my big ToDo’s for this world trip. And I did not miss my opportunity. I went backcountry skiing near the Treble Cone ski resort. For those of you not familiar, backcountry skiing is when you avoid the lifts and instead climb yourself. This results in better ski lines: better snow and fewer (if any) people. For more reasons than I will go into here, this is my preferred form of skiing. In Whistler, I did this every chance I got.
For my ski buddies: You know I love to telemark ski and searched all of Queenstown for some teles with skins but struck out. But, I found some AT gear that worked just fine.
It was a killer ski day, especially for a ski bum that has not skied in about 1.5 years. Way up above the sea of clouds the sun was shining and the skies were blue-bird. Our 5-hour ski day was comprised of about 4 hours and 45 minutes of climbing and 15 min of skiing (two lines). This is a normal ratio for backcountry skiing.
Earning my turns. I could not stop smiling all day.
Something else you should know about NZ: they love rugby. It is their national sport. But it’s more than that. It seems to be the life and soul of the national psyche. I had the pleasure of watching an important match against Australia in a huge bar in Christchurch. The national rugby team is called the “All Blacks.” About 20 minutes before the game the bar appropriately starts playing songs with “black” in the title to get people pumped! Eg, Men in Black, Black Betty, Back in Black, Paint it Black, etc. Great fun! The All Blacks were victories. I didn’t really understand the rules but I was really getting into it and it was a great night to be a part of.
A banner in Christchurch shows it support for its favourite team
I am actually writing to you now from Canada — I have closed the book on NZ. What a country! What a great way to end Part 1 of my World Trip. Here is a NZ photo album for your amusement.
It’s great to be back in Canada. I’m looking forward to a few weeks off before beginning my assault on South America. But, even though I’m back here, the travelling doesn’t stop — it just goes domestic. I was only at my parents’ house for 3 days before taking off on a two week motorcycle trip with my family to Newfoundland. I’ve never been there so I’m quite excited. I left the maintenance of my motorcycle in my Dad’s very capable hands. I came home to find it in mint condition: purring like a kitten, washed and waxed. (For those of you who have seen my Dad’s 20-year-old sports car that looks like it was driven out of the show-room yesterday, you probably aren’t surprised.)
I have some hopefully interesting posts coming up: some thoughts & observations I have been making about the Unique Art of World Travel, a “best of” on Part 1 of my trip, and a few reasons why I love to travel. Stay tuned for all of this.
I hope to see many of you while I’m in the country. Good night, good people.