Wednesday, March 18, 2009

On canyoning, skydiving, puzzles, kayaking, car-sickness and glaciers

Covering february 18th to february 24th

a full day of canyoning condensed into 1:20 for your viewing pleasure. The green (again, unbearably sexy) helmet is perched precariously on the presomtuous pumpkin of yours truly (i.e. green = me)

The next morning I had a first-hand experience of how rude kiwis can be as one of them pushed me out of a perfectly good airplane. I was horrified to find that I wasn't wearing a parachute! Fortunately, the guy strapped to my back had brought his and it was big enough for two so we shared his. I gotta learn to remember these things.

That evening I went to the lake with three aussies, a guitar, and a bottle of whisky. All of them good company.

The next morning it was raining. There were four of us in the car. A german guy, a german girl, a danish girl, and a danish me. All of us strangers. We'd set out on a spontaneous Lord of the Rings location hunt. The german girl had a car, the german guy had a LotR guidebook, I had binoculars, and Linda (the danish girl) had the idea. We were foiled by the weather, but a good time is defined by the company and the attitude, not the circumstances. We had a very good time.

Also, Linda taught me some Salsa. Fun!

The forecast said heavy rains for the entire weekend so I chose to hole up in wanaka, waiting for the weather to clear. A full day glacier walk didn't seem very appealing in pouring rain, and I didn't want to wait it out in Fox Glacier township as there's nothing to do there. This meant I had another couple of days to kill in Wanaka.

If you ever go to Wanaka, you HAVE to check out their cinema. I've never been in one like it. I don't think it even matters what movie is showing, it's just the whole experience! Everybody was sitting in sofas or comfy chairs, and one (un?)lucky couple got to sit in an old car. The film for the night was 'The Curious Case of Benjamin Button'. Nice movie, and Brad Pitt is always awesome.
Anyways. Before the movie started i'd ordered a Pizza, and by the half-way break a table had been made ready for me in the foyer with one steaming pizza waiting for me. Awesome!

Puzzleworld is also quite something. It's not that big, but it has some quite impressive illusions and the maze itself will keep you occupied for an hour at least (unless you're as skilled as me and Linda, in which case you'll zip through it in 45 minutes ;) ). I didn't have my camera since it was a very spontaneous thing, so these were taken with my phone.

Linda is not very tall

Or is she?

When I went kayaking on Wanaka lake I forgot my camera again. Sorry. Pictures wouldn't have done it justice anyway though, as the weather wasn't too good. The trip however, was awesome and completely spontaneous! I was paddling with a californian bloke, and in another kayak were two german girls (Christiane and Nadine). We sailed out to a little island (Ruby island I think) and went for a walk.

Monday, the forecast said the weather would be clearing. Nadine and Christiane was going to Fox Glacier too and offered me a lift in their tiny little car. Wonderful! Christiane was driving. Horrible! I never get carsick, but she made me feel queazy.

The road up the west coast was one I'd really been looking forward to, and sitting cramped on the backseat of a car with no view wasn't exactly the great motorcycle adventure I'd been dreaming of. To top it off, I slept most of the way to stave off the car-sickness. They thought I was suffering from sleeping sickness. I was too polite to tell them that it stemmed from survival instinct. I miss being on a bike. I checked the used bike market again, but to no avail.

Arriving at Fox, I had no reservations for a backpackers place or the glacier walk. Backpackers went ok, but the glacier walk was fully booked. I was gutted. I was already behind schedule, and didn't feel like wasting any more time in Fox.
The town of fox is beautiful and nestled in rainforest, but I found it hard to enjoy, being worried about spending too much time here. I only had two weeks left before the north island, if I were to stick to my plan. Then it struck me that the only person telling me to stick to my plan was me, and if I wanted to change it I could. This made me relax a bit.
After one night of worrying, I got up early and went to see if there'd been any cancellaions on the day trip. there had! It's funny how my worries seem to vaporize the closer I get to them.

The backpackers here in Fox is covered with those cheasy motivational posters. They're tacky, but this one caught my eye:
What we hope to do with ease, we must first do with hard work and perseverance.

This area is called the Gunbarrels. Notice the huge boulder in the foreground. Just five days earlier it'd come thundering down all the way from the top of that mountain!

I smirk in the face of danger!

I was quite inept at using that pick, and almost took off my foot. Looks good in pictures though.

Ice caves rock!

The Fox Glacier, together with the Milford Sound, is some of the most stunning scenery I've ever known. It's nestled in a valley with rainforest covering both sides, and it's a very weird feeling walking through rainforest to get to a glacier! Standing on the ice, you can see down the entire valley, see the hills in the distance, and behind them, a vast and sparkling sea. Once again, I was overcome by a sense of immense wonder at the natural forces at work in this place. This entire valley had been carved by a grinding river of ice, and I was witnessing its slow but deliberate push towards the ocean. Soon, this sense of wonder grew in scope and once again I found myself marvelling at the planet we're on. Just like on the Kepler track, I realized how insignificant we are in the greater scheme of things. Nothing we can do can stop this planet, or even stop life. We can kill ourselves, easy! And we can take other species with us, but wipe out the planet? All life on it? That is only a boast we do to seem important to ourselves.

Some people think that scientific explanations takes away the beauty of things. Somehow they think that, if they know too much about something they'll be unable to appreciate it. I find the opposite to be true. The glacier itself is beautiful to the eye, nothing can ever take that away, but knowing about the processes going on hundreds of meters below me, imagining the sheer weight required for the glacier generate enough pressure to grind the mountain into a pulp, seeing it all happen in my minds eye. Suddenly the beauty goes much further than the eye.

Carl Sagan said something humbling while pondering this picture of earth, taken by Voyager 1 in 1990.
Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The Earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that, in glory and triumph, they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of this pixel on the scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner, how frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds.
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
The Earth is the only world known so far to harbor life. There is nowhere else, at least in the near future, to which our species could migrate. Visit, yes. Settle, not yet. Like it or not, for the moment the Earth is where we make our stand.
It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

Puts it all in perspective doesn't it?

1 comment:

Christie-Jane Wiis said...

Would you imagine, he is my son.