Some come to laugh their past away ....
Feb 1, 2010
|Some come to make it just one more day
Whichever way your pleasure tends
If you plant ice, you're gonna to harvest wind
Oh, harvest wind indeed. Lots of ice and wind this past week. Lots of marvelling over the sky and then taking flight in it. Mother Nature is fascinating and very humbling. The sheer vastness of the earth, the mountains, the glaciers, the night sky and the universe is mind boggling. The raw power of snow, ice, water and wind - wow!
So, I finally got out of Christchurch and as soon as I was a few kilometers away the sky opened up and the sun was shining. I drove inland to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Aoraki Mount Cook is the tallest mountain peak in NZ at 3754 meters. It is snow covered, surrounded by glaciers and climbs 3000+ meters from the valley floor. I stopped for the night in Glentanner Holiday Park and found an amazing site with Mount Cook in the background. I woke in the middle of the night to the most spectacular night sky I have seen in a very long time. It was as if I could reach out and touch the Milky Way! Awesome.
The following morning I joined Glacier Explorers for a tour to the Tasman Glacier. The Tasman is NZ largest glacier and was advancing until about 30 years ago but is now receding. It was a nice hike through the valley to the glacier lake which is a milky color due to all the "Glacier Rock Flour" and at the surface only about 2 degrees Celsius. We boarded a boat and went out to explore the lake and the icebergs created by the glacier. The largest current iceberg had broken into 3 pieces just s few days before and the remains were rocking and rolling and drifting all over the lake. It was amazing to get up close and personal with such a huge force of nature.
Back at the shore I went to visit the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center. It is a alpine museum and planetarium. The museum was interesting but what really grabbed my attention was the planetarium shows. They first showed a 3D movie depicting the Maori Creation Legend of Aoraki Mount Cook. I find myths. legends and ancient culture being shared through stories absolutely fascinating. Then it was a series of traditional night sky shows - Southern Sky, Infinity, Black Holes - which brought me back to the night before and the incredible feeling I had while staring up at the Milky Way.
So, in the car and back around Lake Pukaki to Lake Tekapo, (both lakes are a color of blue which I find impossible to describe - the "Glacier Rock Flour" when it settles leaves very small particles on the surface levels of the lakes and when the light refracts off of it, it is mind blowing), to sign up for the Earth & Sky trip to the Mt. John Observatory. Mt. John is the southern most observatory in the world and has the best conditions for viewing the southern sky. I joined an 11:30 PM group up to the top of Mt. John and spent the next couple of hours staring in wonder through incredibly powerful telescopes into the southern sky. The moon was getting close to being full so the viewing wasn't optimal but I did manage to see nebula, clusters, planets, the moon and even other galaxies. The highlight for me was looking at Saturn and its rings. Sweet as!
After all that excitement and very little sleep you'll never guess what I got up to the next day? Okay, maybe by now you have me figured out. Yes, off to the Alpine Springs Spa and Hot Pools for a nice soak, a salt scrub, mud wrap and massage. Ahhhh, nice.
The next day found me soaring to new heights. I drove to Omarama to go gliding for the first time ever. I booked in with Glideomarama.com for my inaugural flight. This area is world renown for its excellent conditions that are necessary for glider soaring. Steve Fosset even had his High Altitude Perlan Project based here. After signing my life away I met up with my Pilot, Bruce, who had just arrived from doing Extreme Soaring in Argentina. We went over the flight plan, checked the glider and pulled on parachutes (just in case) and hooked up to a small engine plane which towed us up into the sky. We released at about 3000 feet. It was then a game of finding lift in thermals and waves and ridges as the engine-less glider soared over the mountains, lakes and valleys. I learned a little bit about how to fly and took the controls on the smoother portions of the flight. Depending upon nature, engineering and experience to keep us in the sky was a hell of a ride. I'm glad to say after an hour or so we landed safely and the parachutes never came into play.
I continued on through the southland, down the east coast of the south island and stopped in Dunedin for the night. I passed rolling hillsides covered in sheep and cattle, more of the incredible blue lakes and eventually back to the ocean. Beautiful.
Yesterday I travelled the Southern Scenic Route through the Catlins and stopped for lunch in Niagara. They had a Blue Grass Festival going on and I chilled in the sun and enjoyed a little music. I couldn't leave town without first stopping at Niagara Falls New Zealand - (see pictures) - Wow! The evening found me in Bluff, the bottom of the south island. I made it from Cape to Bluff! (the top of the north island to the bottom of the south island) Very cool. After the obligatory photo next to the signpost I went to the Bluff Lookout for the sunset over Stewart Island. No sooner had the sun set then the Blue Moon was rising. Ya, nature and the universe blows me away.
Well, here I sit in Invercargill getting ready to head up the west coast into fiordland. I am scheduled to go scuba diving in Milford Sound tomorrow but that is a tale for another time.
I love you all and miss you all,
The Happy Traveller