Thursday, 11 December 2008

Dreich Tuesday

I might not speak Gaelic or Maori but there's a few Kiwi's who now speak dreich! I'm still not sure I spell it right but it's now in use on parts of Highway 8.

It had stopped raining when I woke up on Tuesday and I could see the base of the mountain so I decided to spend some time over a leisurely breakfast updating the blog and waiting to see if the cloud would continue to lift so I could see the mountain - and confirm that $20 mountain view!

Having spent about an hour writing about Saturday and Sunday the whole of my text vanished as I pressed the publish button. I don’t know how or why but I do know that I came close to throwing the laptop and myself over the balcony of the Sir Edmund Hilary CafĂ©! Instead I decided to give up on Aoraki – “Cloud Piercer” wasn’t going to live up to its name this morning so I was off to find something I could see.

On the way to Mount Cook I’d passed a sign to the Tasman Valley and I’d read that there was a lake with ice bergs floating in it. You don’t get that in Scotland! I drove down a gravel road until it became a track with a sign that said that it wasn’t maintained for cars. There was a footpath suggesting that it was a 20 minute walk to the lake and off I went. The edged and gravelled footpath soon became steep but well maintained steps which gave way to giant gravel steps and then I was climbing over boulders and rocks guided only by a couple of stakes. The last 100 yards were just about vertical. I was puffing like an old horse and if I’d had any breath I’d have muttered under it about a stupid middle aged woman not considering that she’d have to climb a mountain in order to see a lake at ground level. Anyway I’d started so I’d finish – and it was a great cure for my temper. You need energy to remain in a paddy!

I chatted on the way up with an Indian family from Canada – they thought I was being sociable, I knew I was getting my breath back. But I moved on when they started telling tales of people who’d died on the glacier and helicopters that had crashed into it!

I made it to the top and it was incredible. I’ve never seen anything like it - the Tasman Lake was milky white with lots of large and small icebergs. Still lots of cloud so I couldn’t see the Tasman Glacier itself but Cloud Piercer was doing its best and I got some very brief glimpses.

After being awe inspired and just staring at it all for ages I had to get down and realised that it wasn’t going to be easier than up. Now’s the time I have to confess that I’d done the climb in a pair of crocs – fake ones at that! Could have been worse – could have been those lilac and lime sling backs I suppose. Anyway I am delighted to report that I got down without injury and on my feet – did think I might land on my bum at several points. Big advantage of travelling alone - no photo's of undignified scramble! Chatted with a retired tour bus driver from the north of North Island on the way down. He was very envious of me living in Scotland. Did think of suggesting an exchange but conscious that we really do need to improve the gender and age balance on the management team!

At the foot of the path are some toilets and a shelter. Both have chains from the roof into concrete blocks. They aren't design features - they serve the very necessary purpose of keeping the roof on when it blows. Realised that I had been very lucky as there had been no wind at all on my climb.

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