Ice, Ice, Baby!

I forgot to mention that before heading off to Chile and the Torres del Paine Nationalpark I had an overwhelming encounter with ice. No, not ice cream (I’ll get back to that in another post), but ice in its purest form: glacier ice!

The Perito Moreno Glacier is the no. 1 tourist attraction in Argentinian Patagonia although it is tiny compared to all the other glaciers in Patagonia! But it’s the only glacier that you can easily get this close to. And seriously, tiny is not a word you’d use to describe it. From the so called balconies on the mountainside opposite the glacier it looks huge! I could have spend more than just 2,5h looking at its beautiful blue colours, the blue being lighter or stronger depending on the thickness of the ice, and listening to the creaking sound of the ice moving or the thundering roar when parts broke off.20150315_13021020150315_12453920150315_12264420150315_13013820150315_12244820150315_133309

Of course I didn’t leave it at that. I had to walk onto the glacier! A popular way to explore the glacier up close is by way of a mini ice trekking.

Start of the trekking on the left
Start of the trekking on the left

You’ll be equipped with crampons and two knowledgeable guides then take a group of twenty people for a different glacier experience, one that takes you over little crevasses, some of which are filled with water, and up and down the characteristic glacier towers.20150315_16105920150315_16551920150315_16554120150315_17053920150315_172634 It was more strenuous than I had imagined, for the steel crampons are heavy and walking up and, especially, down is harder than expected (bloody knees!). But I highly recommend it! At the end you’ll even be rewarded with a glas of Whisky, on the rocks of course (taken directly from the glacier).20150315_173945

There is also a big ice trekking that takes you further up onto the glacier for several hours. Depending on the crampons they use for this trek it might be worth doing, but if you have troubles with your knees it might not be advisable…

A little hostel side story from El Calafate: in Argentina and Chile hostels mostly have mixed dorms, but in that particular hostel we’ve been four girls in my room on the first night. One moved out and the next eve the rest of us disbelievingly looked at the new suitcase in our room that had the size of a wardrobe!! As it turned out it belonged to a 22 year old Brasilien guy… when asked why in the world he was travelling with such a huge suitcase (on a 5 day vacation!) he replied “cause not all my shoes fit into the smaller one”!!! We almost cried laughing!

Wanaka, West Coast, Wanderlust, Wine & Whales

Now that I actally have access to free, unlimited and reliable wifi, I’ll give you a wrap up of the two wonderful past weeks in NZ.

Wanaka was a very relaxed place with many Kiwis spending their vacation there. Our hostel is my no. 1 for this journey: the Wanaka Bakpaka has recently been refurbished, offers great views of the lake and has a good vibe.

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Unfortunately I did not meet the owners of the Rippon Valley vineyard – certainly a great place to live, with great views of the lake and delicious wines…

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On our way to Franz Josef we must have past over 20 one lane bridges, indicating how few the traffic is on the west coast! The sea is amazing and just behind throne huge mountains covered by rain forest!DSC_0399DSC_0403 And at the top, Franz Josef glacier disgorges… but much of the glacier has melted and those of you who’ve already been there would be shocked as to how much has gone. If you want to walk onto the glacier you now need to take a helicopter, a rather costly affair! The day we spent at Franz Josef was the only rainy day we had in three weeks (and we were the only ones geared up with rain jackets and rain trousers while walking up to the bottom of the glacier, where the clouds and the rain prevented a proper look at it). DSC_0416DSC_0419Luckily, it was much better at 7.30 the next morning and we could actually see the glacier!

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Hokitika was a pleasant stop to satisfy our daily 11 am hunger. We had the most delicious raspberry chocolate muffin at the “fire brigade” along with the daily flat white and long black!

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The YHA Westport could have been my first choice if it weren’t for the bunch of teenagers (17-19 year old germans and brits are hard to take, especially in the morning)… but the room with ensuite bath on the first floor was lovely. DSC_0486DSC_0490And the walk along the coastline was beautiful: DSC_0508 DSC_0496Wanderlust enthraled us again in Abel Tasman and the Marlborough Sounds. With the southeaster blowing like mad the kayak trip in Abel Tasman was far mode adventurous than expected. It was nothing like a leasure paddle and it was a bit of a challenge to cut across the waves from onetahuti beach (“now paddle as hard as you can…”, our guide told us). Once we were further out we fought our way along tonga island (saw some seal mums and their little ones) and moskito bay to bark bay for lunch. Since the waves constantly poured over us there was no way I was going to take out my camera! We decided to walk the second part on the abel tasman coast trackDSC_0530DSC_0528DSC_0527DSC_0531 and had a very pleasant overnight stay at the aquapackers houseboat in anchorage bayDSC_0563, walking back to marahau the next morning.DSC_0565

 

 

 

After a pleasant stay in Nelson, where we enjoyed some good food, town flair and listened to passer-by playing the piano on the pavement, another two days of walking on the queen charlotte track with stunning views of the Marlborough Sounds and a hilarious evening with three Kiwi ladies at Furneaux lodge followed:

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We chilled in Picton, playing an appallingly round of minigolf (does that ring a bell, V.?), 20150128_114021

and sipping some wine at several of the wineries around Blenheim.

20150128_151123The Kaikoura coast was all about animals: seals playing in pools

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Albatrosses, DSC_0782

 

A large (18m – as large as the boat!) Sperm whale DSC_0766DSC_0773DSC_0778

 

 

 

and a crowd of playful dusky dolphins. DSC_0793DSC_0804DSC_0812

 

 

 

A marvellous three weeks, thank you Iris!!! (Eeeexcellent!)

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