Saturday, April 19, 2008

Glacier walking

In the South Island of New Zealand, there are 2 famous glaciers on its west coast - Fox Glacier and Franz Josef Glacier. Here, you can undertake one of New Zealand's top attractions : glacier walking!

There are trained guides who will lead a small group of tourists up onto the glaciers, and all equipment will be provided for. In fact, you can't go up yourself, and have to signup with one of the agencies there. There are several options available, and for those who have the budget or are less walking-inclined, there are helicopter rides up as well. Me and my friends went to Fox Glacier for a half day trek up onto the glacier.

The 2 glaciers in New Zealand are quite special in that they recede down quite low, onto a temperate rainforest! According to my guide, there are only 3 such glaciers that exist side-by-side with a temperate rainforest, 2 of which is already in New Zealand. The other is in Patagonia in South America. It was indeed quite fascinating hiking through a rainforest, and suddenly finding myself onto a chilly glacier.

Walking on the glacier itself is not hard; you're equipped with crampons, or spikes that you can attached to your shoes. These will help bite onto the glacier ice when walking. Of course, you can't go round running, and due care is still required. In fact, our guide is pretty strict in us maintaining our walking discipline. Certain parts, "steps" will be cut onto the glacier ice for us to climb up! Fun!

There are crevasses, caverns, holes and ice formations. The cold blue glacier landscape is really quite a sight. For those taking pictures, do note that you may have to adjust your exposure settings as most camera's auto exposure may result in underexposure in all-whitish scenes. Other than that, have a great time!

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