Memoirs of a Glacier

24Feb10

New Zealand is infamous as the adrenaline junkie’s Mecca. There is no better place in the world to experience danger apart from Croydon high street at 3am. Having successfully mastered snorkeling, I flew out to this heart pumping paradise, eager to take on my next challenge. 

Unfortunately, all skydiving, bungy jumping and possibility-of-death activities in New Zealand were fully booked when I arrived* so I will be unable to risk my life in the name of anecdotal entertainment for this blog. I am gutted as you can imagine.

Undeterred, Susie and I discovered a conquest that promised to spike our nervous system with splintered shards of terror forged by Lucifer himself. Plus it would only take half a day and the brochure said something about free biscuits. This icy thrill-slap can be summed up in one word – Franz Josef Glacier.

Franz Josef Glacier is the fourth largest glacier in New Zealand at 12km long and descends to less than 300 metres above sea level. Located on the West Coast, its hobbies include hanging out with friends, ridiculing the elderly and shopping. It enjoys crying at sad movies and vehemently opposes same sex marriage. FJG has ambitions to be the third largest Glacier in New Zealand and dreams of getting trapped in a lift with Zac Efron LOL!!

Having carefully assessed this information, Susie and I stormed over to Adventure HQ, determined to tame the ‘Massive Ice Bitch’ as it has been named by locals (possibly).

We joined the queue to sign up and eventually found ourselves face to face with a brightly uniformed lady behind a counter. She began taking us through the registration process when suddenly a short, middle-aged, frizzily blonde woman appeared to my right. Having bypassed the queue, she didn’t waste any time letting us finish and began barking instructions at the startled assistant. Her accent was New York to the point of parody and her face looked unnervingly like Bette Midler. As her Nu Yawk vowels aggressively kicked the ass out of any stray consonants, it was only possible to pick up the gist of what she was saying. Apparently, she needed to postpone a mountain hike as she now had other plans. “Why don’t you take a hike right now” is exactly what I would have said if it hadn’t occurred to me 45 minutes after the actual event.

Mz Midler continue to issue commands for some time, pushing my British reserve to the explosive point of very nearly tutting. Finally, Bette turned on her prima-donna heel and flounced off – breezily humming a fabulous show tune from her extensive back catalogue. 

Big Foot

 

Big Mouth

 

A short time later, having finally signed up, we stood shoulder to shoulder with our fellow adventurers waiting for the off. Glancing around, I noticed that the majority of our troop were carrying massive rucksacks. I puzzled over what they may contain as all climbing and clothing equipment came supplied. By way of contrast, I have collated a list of all items Susie and I had with us in the hope that it may inspire future generations:-

• 1 x 600ml bottle of water (tap)

• 1 x Banana

* 1 x Emergency banana

• 1 x Camera

This was all contained within the pockets of my fashionable aqua marine swimming trunks. 

During our final safety instruction briefing (stay with the group, do not accept sweets from strangers unless they have kind eyes etc.) I overheard a conversation which claimed that two people had been killed climbing the glacier last year. Now I’m all for taking risks and mocking death as long as there is absolutely zero possibility of getting injured. I brought this up with Matt, our guide, as we trekked towards the foot of FJG. I expected him to laugh it off but he confirmed the story and added that only yesterday, two people had been seriously hurt by falling rocks. He could only have made me more tense by wearing the mask from Scream and insisting that I was his ‘ickle teddy bear. 

Sensing that all this talk of death and pain had failed to gee me up, Matt changed the subject. Apparently, before setting off, a woman had interrupted him mid-conversation by thrusting a plastic bag into his hands and instructing him to fill it with ice from the glacier so she could have it with her whiskey. ‘Ello ‘ello I thought, a rude woman barking unreasonable demands you say? It can only be inexplicable screen legend and 80’s icon, Bette Midler. I confirmed this with Matt by recreating the scene from earlier, complete with New York accent and diva sass. I think my uncanny characterisation was too spot-on for our intrepid guide as I noticed him lengthening his stride and gradually edging away.

As our guide leader triumphantly plants the flag on the summit, no one dares point out his glaring omission.

 

As we made our giddy ascent, the scenery was breathtaking and the camaraderie was comradely. However, the full details of exactly what happened up there on that glacier on a crisp February morning can never fully be revealed. Partly because of an unwritten code of silence but mainly because my fingers are starting to hurt from all this typing.

*Please don’t bother checking this factual information.

p.s I have now added a subscribe button on the top right corner of the page, especially for you.

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