Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC have just returned home after a week-long trip to New Zealand’s South Island. It was a trip of adventure, beauty and magnificence. For this worm, the high point was a trip up Fox Glacier on the island’s west coast.

The TC and her clan did the “Fox Trot”, a half-day walk up to and over the glacier. This worm went along for the ride. I now have a certificate to prove my prowess at glacier scaling. Photos below.

My impressions? Bizarrely beautiful shapes. Cold. Danger enough to add a delicious tingle of fear.

Travel tip

Take a few layers of clothing. You’ll feel warm while walking through the forest on the way to the glacier, freezing cold in the arctic wind on top of the glacier, and various temperatures in between.

Recommended accommodation

Westhaven Motel in Fox Glacier Township. The manager is delightfully hospitable, the broadband access is free, the rooms are spacious and comfortable. This was the best accommodation of our New Zealand trip.

The book I’m in

Clean Cut, by Lynda La Plante. A good cop and crim yarn, with a gritty ending.

The photos

Me approaching Fox Glacier:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Mark Wordsworm nearing the foot of Fox Glacier

Our guide described the hazards of the cave at the foot of the glacier and the dangers of getting too close:

A view of the glacier from above, showing how it curves around a corner and up the further slope. There’s more over the horizon too, though we didn’t see it:

Climbing Fox Glacier, New Zealand

A view of Fox Glacier from above

Zooming in to see two tour groups already on the ice:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Two tour groups on Fox Glacier

Now it’s our turn. The TC hung back to take this shot of our group climbing up the stairs hacked into the ice. See the weird and wonderful shapes the ice has formed:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Our group climbing up Fox Glacier

I made it! Me on the glacier:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Mark Wordsworm, conqueror of glaciers

Shapes and colours in the ice:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Shapes and colours in the ice on Fox Glacier

Sorbet, anyone?

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Looking down into a crevasse, with a glacial stream of water at the bottom:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

The TC venturing down into the crevasse:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

The TC venturing into a crevasse

At the bottom of the crevasse, beautiful and scary:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

A crevasse on Fox Glacier

Me and Peg, perched on a stone and leaning up against the TC’s boot. Ah yes, did I neglect to mention that Peg was there too? I’m avoiding contact with the ice itself. Nasty wet cold stuff, not very compatible with cardboard folk. Note the crampons strapped to the TC’s boot, inelegant but functional:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Me, Peg and the TC's crampon-fortified boot

Our guide carving a path for us:

Every now and then we heard the clink and clatter of a chunk of ice breaking off somewhere in the ice below us. Scary? Oh yeah! Every now and then the TC stuck her stick into a stream or a hole, and the stick went down and down and down as far as it could reach. Scary? Oh yeah! We stood on platforms, stepped to the next one and looked back, to see we’d been standing on a thin sheet of ice with not much below. Fun? Oh yes indeed.

Looking up towards the point where the glacier turns a corner:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

As far as we could see:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

The furthest point we could see when up on the glacier

Climbing down off the glacier:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Climbing down off Fox Glacier

Walking away from the glacier. The flat valley floor and extremely steep sides are characteristic of a valley carved by a glacier. In past centuries, Fox Glacier has been much lower down and created the valley we see here:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Walking away from Fox Glacier along the valley floor

This is to certify that Mark Wordsworm did visit the mighty Fox Glacier, did brave the inclemency of the South Westland climate and did endure the rambling discourses of the guides:

Climbing Fox Glacier in New Zealand

Certificate of this worm's glacier-conquering prowess

That’s all for today dudes.

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The Chasm and a couple of Kea parrots in New Zealand

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

In my earlier post I wrote about our trip to Milford Sound, on New Zealand’s South Island. On the road to Milford Sound is The Chasm, well worth seeing and hearing in its own right.

The forest surrounding The Chasm:

The Chasm and a couple of Kea parrots in New Zealand

New Zealand native forest at The Chasm on the way to Milford Sound

The Chasm is a gnarled and whorled channel dug into the rock by a river. The TC started this video with a view of some people, to give perspective, then moved down to the river, to try and show the size of the gorge and the swirling rock patterns:

You may encounter a Kea parrot on your way to and from Milford.This one was patrolling the car park when we arrived at The Chasm:

The Chasm and a couple of Kea parrots in New Zealand

A Kea parrot at The Chasm

The TC, of course, cooed and clucked over the Keas.  This worm stayed safely in a book in the TC’s bag.

This Kea strutted up the roadside barrier while we waited our turn to go through the Homer tunnel on the Milford road:

That’s all for today dudes.

Cruising down Milford Sound, New Zealand

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC).

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC spent a day in Milford Sound, on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. Milford Sound is actually not a sound, but a fjord. The difference is that a sound is carved out by water and then back-filled by the sea, whereas a fjord is carved out by a glacier and then back-filled by the sea. A fjord typically has a flat bottom and very steep sides, while a sound has a v-shaped bottom and sloping sides.

We took a boat trip that set off from the bottom end of the fjord and headed up the southern side towards the sea, turned at the mouth and then returned along the northern side of the fjord. The TC chose a “Nature Cruise” rather than a “Scenic Cruise”. A nature cruise is on a smaller boat, that gets you closer to the water and also closer to the towering mountains that form the banks of the fjord. We got so close that we could touch the land. We even took a shower under a couple of the magnificent waterfalls that crash down the mountains all round.

My impressions? Milford Sound is magical. Awesome. This worm tries to avoid using that word, but it works here. The drive from Te Anau is beautiful too. Awesome indeed.

Travel tip

Drive to Milford Sound yourself, rather than taking a bus tour. It gives you more time to look around and to stop when you like.

Recommended accommodation

Amber Court Motel, on Quintin Street in Te Anau. There’s only one hotel in Milford itself, and it was fully booked. The Amber Court Motel offers friendly service, and is clean and convenient.

The book I’m in

Bad Luck and Trouble, by Lee Child. Jack Reacher gets together with some old buddies from his army unit. It’s like having a number of Reachers all in one book.

The photos

Me cruising down Milford Sound:

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

The drive to Milford is stunningly beautiful. This worm fears he will run out of adjectives and adverbs before he can do justice to the majesty of the views all round. So let’s let the pictures speak for themselves.

It’s mid summer in New Zealand, but many of the peaks are covered in snow:

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

Snow-capped mountains on the way to Milford

Winding rivers and low-lying cloud marked our early-morning drive:

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

Rivers and cloud on the way to Milford

Cloud drifting off a snow-shrouded giant:

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

Cloud streaming away from a snow-shrouded peak on the way to Milford

A view from the boat on Milford Sound:

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

Two boats on Milford Sound, dwarfed by the scenery

Looking back down Milford Sound, with the 160m-high Bowen Falls on the left:

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

Looking into Milford Sound with Bowen Falls on the left

A closer look at Bowen Falls, with some kayaks and rowers providing perspective just left of middle bottom:

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

Bowen Falls, with three kayaks and people at middle left

Another glacier-formed valley, butting onto Milford Sound, with a waterfall and pleasing play of light:

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

Light and shade with waterfall in Milford Sound, and a cruise boat giving perspective

Unusually for Milford Sound, the weather is bright and sunny. The TC, bless her cotton socks, professed herself a bit disappointed. She had been hoping for mist-induced mystery and glimpses of mountain giants and frost-breathing waterfalls straight out of Tolkien. So she was very pleased with the above shot.

Waterfalls all over the place:

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

Waterfalls in Milford Sound

Heading into the fjord towards the Milford Sound harbour, looking back at Harrison Cove:

Cruising through Milford Sound, New Zealand

Looking back towards Harrison Cove in Milford Sound

That’s all for today dudes.

Published in: on 13 February 2011 at 11:39 am  Comments (1)  
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The seventh most dangerous road in the world

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

In my previous post, aptly titled Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand, I promised to publish a video of us driving down Skipper’s Canyon, the world’s seventh most dangerous road. Eat your heart out, Jeremy Clarkson! Here it is:

The speed limit on that road is 100 km per hour. We did it at an average of 20 km per hour, and that felt plenty fast enough. We were in a Land Rover Defender. Our guide assured us that ordinary two-wheel drive cars could manage the road too. Hah, says this worm.

That’s all for today dudes.

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

Today’s travel notes

Queenstown, the action capital of the world. That’s what our guide told us during one of the many activities and adventures that me and the TC have tackled in the last few days. Queenstown, on the South Island of New Zealand, is a pretty little town with lots to offer for a few days of fun and action.

My impressions? Sunlight glowing on tawny hills. Cloud shadows gliding across a turquoise lake. People flying through treetops, skimming over water, scooting along the shore and jumping off anything that doesn’t move. It’s all happening.

Travel tip

Ziptrek. Just do it.

Recommended accommodation

Pounamu Apartments.

The book I’m in

Bad Luck and Trouble, by Lee Child. Jack Reacher gets together with some old buddies from his army unit. It’s like having a number of Reachers all in one book.

The photos

Me and Mary Moa:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

The TC offering me to the last surviving Moa

In the centre of Queenstown stands the last remaining Moa bird. Mary. Naturally, the TC attempted to feed me to the giant bird. Mary Moa declined with due disdain:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Mary Moa's suspicious eye

Queenstown is beautiful. A lake runs through it:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Queenstown seen from Skipper's Saddle

At the bottom of Lake Wakatipu a giant’s heart pumps. That’s the reason why the water surges one way and then the other, regular as clockwork every fifteen minutes, causing a twenty centimetre rise in the level of the lake on each shore in turn. The seiche, they call it. There’s no scientific explanation for the phenomenon yet, so the story of the giant’s heart is as good as any other.

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Lake Wakatipu, Queenstown

Jonathan was there too:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Jonathan on the shore of Lake Wakatipu

We zoomed along the shores of Lake Wakatipu on Segways:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Zooming along with Segway on Q

We zipped through the treetops on flying fox cables:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Flying fox tour of the treetops with Ziptrek

The flying fox tour is run by Ziptrek. If you’re ever in Queenstown, do it. The cables and platforms are attached to trees like this:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Cables and platforms built into Douglas fir trees

If you have the time, or the nerve, to look while zipping through the treetops, this is the view you’ll see:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

View from the treetops

We panned for gold on the famous Arrow River:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Gold panning equipment

Sifting out all the pebbles and white sand:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Panning for gold

That’s the gold, right there! See it?

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

A speck of gold

Poke the gold to make it stick to your finger:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Get the gold onto your fingertip

There it is. No, really:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Goldfinger

Add it to the rest of your stash. Carefully:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Collecting the gold

You’re rich:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

Gold gold gold

To celebrate our new found wealth, we enjoyed a high tea:

Adventures in Queenstown, New Zealand

High tea on the Land Rover bonnet

Then we drove down the seventh most dangerous road in the world, into Skipper’s Canyon. This worm survived to tell the tale! I’ll post a video of the drive, just as soon as I can get it loaded onto YouTube. Motel broadband is not all its cracked up to be. This worm is sure you’re all waiting on tenterhooks. Ah, the suspense!

That’s all for today dudes.

The glow worms of Te Anau

This is the blog of Mark Wordsworm, the travelling worm. I’m a 25-year-old bookmark and can proudly boast my own Hallmark serial number, 95 HBM 80-1. You’ll probably want to read all about me and my Travelling Companion (the TC) .

Today’s travel notes

Me and the TC are in Te Anau on the South Island of New Zealand, and this worm has just had a rare treat. We went to visit a colony of worms! In fact, a whole boatload of people crossed a lake and clambered through narrow caves and over rushing torrents, just to visit a colony of worms. I was tempted to set up shop and boast my own prowess as a fellow worm. The TC persuaded me that she could not do without me, so here I am, back in a small motel room, writing up my glowing (ahem) praise of the Te Anau glow worms.

My impressions? Lots of eye candy and a very professionally presented tour. Go Real Journeys tour operators.

Travel tip

Not much happens in Te Anau. It’s just a place to go to other places from.

Recommended accommodation

Amber Court Motel, on Quintin Street in Te Anau. Friendly service, clean and close to the action.

The book I’m in

Bad Luck and Trouble, by Lee Child. Jack Reacher gets together with some old buddies from his army unit. It’s like having a number of Reachers all in one book.

The photos

Me glowing bright on the floor of a New Zealand Beech forest. Some mushrooms and berries were there too:

The glow worms of Te Anau

The glowing travelling worm

On the way into Te Anau, this road sign tickled the TC’s sense of humour (she’s a technical writer, you know):

The glowworms of Te Anau

Signpost in Te Anau

Heading off on the boat across Lake Te Anau:

The glowworms of Te Anau

Touches of Tolkien, heading off across Te Anau lake

Reaching the shores where the glow worms have set up camp:

The glowworms of Te Anau

Native Beech forest meets lake

The glow worms are deep inside a series of caves carved by a rushing stream. The word “Te Anau” means something like “cave with swirling water” in ancient Maori. When Europeans first came to New Zealand, in the late nineteenth century, they had no idea these caves existed. Evidently they only found them in 1948. This is the entrance to the caves:

The glowworms of Te Anau

Entrance to the glow worm caves

We did not take any photos inside the caves. That would disturb the worms and spoil the experience for the other people on the tour too. Instead, the TC snapped some pictures of the explanatory video that the tour company, Real Journeys, showed us. This is an infrared image of a glow worm setting up its fishing lines to catch insects for food:

The glow worms of Te Anau

Infrared image of glow worm and its fishing lines, by Real Journeys

Here’s another glow worm:

The glow worms of Te Anau

A glow worm, by Real Journeys

Travelling through the caves and grotto is eery and beautiful. You sit in a small boat (twelve passengers only) and the guide pulls you along via guide ropes. It’s pitch black, except for the patterns, swirls and patches of bright dots above your head. The water roars all round you. Every now and then you sense another boat passing close by, or a lighter patch of rock just above your head. The boat bumps into the rock. The water roars. Worms glow. Drips drop.

At one stage, I happen to know, the TC grabbed a nearby hand to pull herself back into reality.

Back outside, the Beech forest is velvety:

The glow worms of Te Anau

A velvety cover of moss

It’s weird too. Look at the fungus on this fallen tree:

The glow worms of Te Anau

Fungus on a fallen tree in the Beech forest outside the glow worm cave

A closer look:

The glow worms of Te Anau

A closer look at the fungus

Back in Te Anau after a fast boat ride across the lake, the TC spotted a huge tree stump that had an interesting shape. I don’t think she had quite succeeded in pulling herself back to reality yet, because she decided that if she lay down on the stump, she and the stump would look just like a butterfly. So she did it:

The glow worms of Te Anau

The TC and a tree stump combining to form a butterfly

Silly TC. Only worms like me and the glow worms can grow wings.

That’s all for today dudes.