Noi6 means "the 6 of us" in Romanian.

We are five, you are the sixth one.

We thank you for joining us in our trip around the world...

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

New Beginnings Three

Franz Josef Glacier
We slowly make our way down the West Coast. We pick up Ben (19) and Leslie (18) from Canada, who travel for 6 months before going to college, and met here. Part of a bigger group, they make their way toward destinations by hitchhiking, legal in this part of the world. Our children are happy to have someone to talk with. They tell jokes and replies from movies, read fun facts. We leave them in the village of Franz Josef and make our way to the glacier.
Southern Alps are young and still growing mountains. They are tall enough to stop the clouds on going on the eastern side and obligate them to release their moisture here. In the last 20 years Franz Josef and Fox Glacier grew, and that is a good news, because they are the only ones of their kind in the world: their lowest altitude is at 345 m/ 1400 ft above sea level. 
You can see them from different distances, but if you take a walk you can come close enough: 200 m/ 600 ft for Franz and 80 m/ 250 ft for Fox. We followed the green metal marks with a yellow stripe on top through the valley of the glacier. It use to be longer than what it is now, much longer. There is a small river that jumps above and around some flat rocks. 
Those tiny dots are people.

Between the flat, vertical walls of the valley there are boulders of various sizes: grey, striped, covered with yellowish-green moss and red lichens. 
From our vantage point of view we can see multiple waterfalls, crashing between forests, cutting slices of stone.
We are at the roped end. On our left is the river, more thunderous here, as it emerges from under the glacier. The walls have closed in and we’re facing an ice mountain: pure white at the top, wrinkling into grey and then crevassing in blue chunks. On some parts is covered in shale, shards of stone. In others it looks dirty, like the piles of snow in a city. Our view is partialy blocked by a small hill. 

Mihai itches to go beyond the rope, to climb the hill and have a better view. The girls make a common front and refuse adamantly. The rules forbid crossing the line! Ileana repeats several times, she’s on the camera too, “I don’t want to be an orphan for a block of ice!”
Why are they so scared? Danger lies in the fragmentation of the glacier, rocks falling from above and flash flooding.
 Mihai asks me if the children weren’t present, would I let him go? Yes, I would come with you. Ioan wanted to go. Maria switched her opinion, she wasn’t going to be left down here. Only Ileana stayed true to her resolution and waited for us.
No, we are not crazy (OK, maybe just a little, but in a good way). It was the track made by the groups with a guide. We even saw one climbing. The weather was good, close to sunset, no rain, we were climbing a hill, (the flood wouldn’t have reached us up there), we were on an open space, no rocks or walls above us, we had our all terrain shoes, and we weren’t going close to the glacier, we just wanted to see better. See for yourself...

As we were looking, we noticed the people from the group that we previously saw: they were climbing the ice.
If Ileana would have been with us, maybe we would have pushed our luck and go a little bit more, but from where we were, she couldn’t see us. I didn’t want to frighten her, so we returned. As we were walking back to our RV, we discussed with the children our way of bending the rules. The signs were there and in a way we followed them. We didn’t go next to the river bed, or under the towering glacier. We followed a track made by guides and applied all the rules for safe climbing, watching where we stepped, put the whole sole on the ground, going one by one, with a safe distance between us. We broke the rule of walking on that track without a guide, but we knew that we weren’t going on the glacier, even if Ileana would have been with us. Still, what we did was dangerous. That hill, that we climbed, was made of shale, shards of stone, hold together by dust. I showed Ioan how effortless it was to dislodge one rock, just with his fingertip. How did that hill come to be right there in the way of the glacier?

Fox Glacier and the road to Wanaka
As I draw open the curtains I notice it is cloudy. We are moving slowly and in an attempt to quicken us Mihai says “Would you hurry up? Those kids might be frozen by now!” reffering to Leslie and Ben, knowing that they wanted to go to Wanaka. 
We start driving and at the crossroads we saw some hitchhikers. We ask the children if they want to have someone else to talk with, but as we’re pulling on the side we realize they are Ben and Leslie. Both parts are happy as we will have a wonderful day together.
First stop Lake Matheson. We have to walk around it to view Mt. Aoraki (Cook) reflected in its waters. By now the sky would show his blue eyes between different layers and colors and shapes of clouds.

We take pictures and start our walk through the rain forest. There are tree ferns here. I knew about them in the dinosaurs age, that’s how we have coal, but in our age and time? It’s something about their curly unfolding of the leaf that is irresistible. 
Moss on all tree trunks, creeping vines, a stream the color of tea, birds song. By the time we arrive at the View of the Views, on a small hill, the mountain is hidden behind the clouds. Five minutes down the walk, on the Reflection Island, the surface of the lake is choppy and the clouds are still in place. We can imagine that we’ve seen it.

Next stop: Fox Glacier
We park the car and start walking. This valley is not that larger, or deeper, but still has the same kind of squarish rocks, flattened by the sliding of the ice over the ground. 

There are some pools of blue water. At their bottom is glacier flour, powdered rock. If you stir them they would become milky blue.
This time we stop at the rope. The glacier is right there, in front of us, like a blue custard. 
We take pictures and Ben jokes that that’s why we picked them up so he would take photos of the five of us.

And the next...
I don’t know where we were, but I’ve seen a rainbow, so we had to take pictures. It was raining on us, but further down the road the sun was shining on the hills.
Look closer: it's a double one.
And again, next to a rocky beach  and a forest of straight, parallel trees.
 Here we picked other hitchhikers, unwelcome ones: Te Namu, sandflies. These are smaller than a mosquito, they are not the brightest or quickest insect, but their bite itches later and longer. We spend around 5 min exterminating them. The man had seen the beauty of the Fiordland and he wouldn’t go away, so a goddess made the sand fly to make him leave.
And the next one was Lake Wanaka. The problem with stopping is sometimes the space  to park is on the other side of the road. Or if you don’t stop there, there is no other space from which you can see. Or that you don’t want to leave.
A man from Netherlands told us about this place. The only sign for a stop was at a campsite down the hill. We make our way between trees, onto the pebbly beach of the lake, between driftwood and there it is

Behind us, a dark sky, low grey clouds, wind blowing furiously and raising choppy white waves on the lake. We find a shelter and admire some more, but still we have to go.
We drive for 5 minutes and as the road curves toward left, we say goodbye to lake Wanaka, just to say hello to lake Hawea that was stretching right in front of us.
 We could see the sun rays over the lake.
And as we were following the road and climb a steep hill the left side opens and we can see the whole length of the lake “They have no mercy!” I exclaim as I climb down, again, just to look.

It’s dusk as we say good bye to Ben and Leslie. They will stay longer here than us, with some friends. We find the Top10 camping grounds and after finding our spot I go to the kitchen to do my job. Mihai asked me several times if I want to drive. I have no interest in doing such thing, with this mastodon of car. Give me a BMW! So he does things related to the car and I do the others. Children carry to and fro the dishes and wash them. It is interesting to observe the kitchens in those campgrounds as some are stark, just electrical ranges and sinks, and others who have utensils, and the whole paraphernalia. This was a stark one, and as I was tired, I forgot lots of things in the RV. Wouldn’t it be easier to cook in the RV? I mean, what’s the point of a gas range if you don’t use it? My answer: NO. I need space, and in that RV it wasn’t, especially with two teenagers chattering their teeth away and one tween who didn’t want to be left out. 
The next day we move on a different spot where we were supposed to have a view of the lake, but it is cloud covered. We’ve spent the whole day cooped up in the RV and worked on our different projects.


  1. I'm smiling as I read this post. Thank you again! Hope your trip is going well! Lots of love, Leslie :)

    1. Hello, hello! Do you like the pictures? How does New Zealand look in the winter? Does your mother like it?


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