Kia Ora days 14 and 15: Go West Young Man

Leaving Christchurch was a wrench. We never made the Quake museum nor the City Museum. We fly home from there so maybe we’ll have time to fill those gaps. The reason was we had a train to catch.

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Christchurch station

Now, I’m a bit geeky when it comes to the Iron Horse. I LOVE a train journey. I actually liked commuting a lot of the time. There’s something of a community on a train; it is a fab place to people watch because you are so close yet most people are preserving their personal space. And there’s the world outside, the backs of people’s houses, like looking through their diaries and sneaking a peek at their lives.

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I’ve tried some of the greats, too. The Rocky mountaineer from Jasper to Vancouver; the Orient Express from London to Venice; the Settle – Carlisle; even the East Coast line north of York on the way to Edinburgh is a fab experience.

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To these I can now add the Trans Alpine Railway from Christchurch to Greymouth. Well, half of it because of those dreaded words ‘Engineering Works’. It meant we had to decant at Arthur’s Pass (fantastic name for a station) and take the bus; the plus was we avoided an 8 mile long tunnel and saw some great country side yet…

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Still, the slow climb to Arthur’s Pass was amazing. I am so lucky.

This may give you a better sense of the journey

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Greymouth, we were told to pass through quickly. We did and yet it seemed perfectly acceptable in its own busy, no nonsense way. We heard of some dreadful mining disasters on the way over and the Greymouth Evening Paper had a mural outside its print works of some of its most famous stories, mining disasters featuring highly. A tough part of the world, I guess.

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It began to rain. And on the West Coast boy does it rain. They don’t measure it in inches or centimetres as we do at home but in metres. That explains why it is so lush and why we were stopping 200 kilometres along State Highway 6 at the quaintly named Franz Josef Glacier.

The thick cloud and incessant deluge rather put the mockers on an easy night. We had a heli-hike in the morning and it was rather weather dependent.

Now, I know, dear readers, you think this is some sort of boys’ outing. And I accept there have been a couple of days when we’ve leapt and jumped and run a bit. Anyway, today was one of those days.

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Love the bit about keep away from the back. As if…

We checked in by this sign. Changed into some waterproof clothes and boots, were given a bumbag and sent to the helipad.

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What about the beard, then? Better than his…

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If you haven’t been in a helicopter it is an exciting and unnerving experience. The first bit, shooting straight up always catches you out. Then you might turn and swoop. Once you are underway it is fine and time to take in the scenery, flying up a glacial valley to a fast moving (4 metres a day) glacier. Here are some pics.

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And here’s a little bit of film.

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This video doesn’t exist

The bumbag contained crampons as we would be hiking across a glacier. I’ve seen glaciers before but never hiked on one. Crevasses and slip-sliding are a constant concern but the sheer beauty of the blue ice is enough to justify both the effort (being high is tiring) and the risks (at one point, the Lawyer’s foot went through a slushy pool and fortunately his other was grounded as he certainly never felt the bottom).

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sometimes I sits and thinks and sometimes I just sits…

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a bedrock hole in the glacier

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some caves are a bit tight

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and some stacks a bit flimsy

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and then some seem just about ok…

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…. for the comfortably sized male

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and some we just stared at in awe…

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a little nest

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still sitting?

I’ll let some of these images tell their own tale. Franz Josef Glacier is shrinking but only since 2008. However the rate of shrinkage is fast as is the speed it moves. In 100 years the ice wall will have retreated they think.

We returned just as the weather closed in and the afternoon trips were being cancelled. Very lucky all round.

As was I in the afternoon. The plan was to have a quiet one but I saw this sign for a quad bike trail in the rain forest and I’ve never been on a quad like. So…


They were tremendous fun


though why my head seems to be glowing is anyone’s guess….

I know, I know. There’s no excuse really.

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I did enjoy it though…

And I know what I’m getting for Christmas

Come home you two  Geoff Le Pard

When are you going to be home?




About TanGental

My name is Geoff Le Pard. Once I was a lawyer; now I am a writer. I've published several books: a four book series following Harry Spittle as he grows from hapless student to hapless partner in a London law firm; four others in different genres; a book of poetry; four anthologies of short fiction; and a memoir of my mother. I have several more in the pipeline. I have been blogging regularly since 2014, on topic as diverse as: poetry based on famous poems; memories from my life; my garden; my dog; a whole variety of short fiction; my attempts at baking and food; travel and the consequent disasters; theatre, film and book reviews; and the occasional thought piece. Mostly it is whatever takes my fancy. I avoid politics, mostly, and religion, always. I don't mean to upset anyone but if I do, well, sorry and I suggest you go elsewhere. These are my thoughts and no one else is to blame. If you want to nab anything I post, please acknowledge where it came from.
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7 Responses to Kia Ora days 14 and 15: Go West Young Man

  1. Jenni Le Pard says:

    will you two STOP having such a good time! 😛


  2. willowdot21 says:

    I agree Jenny Le Pard they are getting VERY VERY ANNOYING! When they get home make sure he has not got my ring. xxxxx


  3. Charli Mills says:

    Glacial blue is such a stunning color! We have glaciers here, too that are shrinking rapidly (Glacier Park will one day be about where the glaciers were). Have fun! Live life out loud!


  4. I’d say you have certainly exhausted the out loud on this trip. The hike looks fantastic. There is nothing quite like that blue ice. I wonder how long before there is no blue ice at all. I’d guess you are going to be licked to death on your return or else you are getting a quad bike to ride around your back garden.

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