Saturday, January 16, 2010

"Rest Day"

The concept of "rest day" can take on a whole new meaning in New Zealand. This is our second and last one, and it seems to mean only that you rest from cycling, but even that has to be qualified. But, I need to back up.

Last evening, after dinner, a few of us joined Bill and John, our guides, for a short van ride and then a short walk to Lake Matheson where we located the best spot for the taking the iconic NZ photo of the reflections of Mt. Tasman (left) and Mt. Cook (right) on the Lake. The best time for taking the picture (although we did take a few sunset shots) is early in the morning before the sun has crested the mountains and before the wind stirs the surface of the lake.

So, I was up at 5:30 this morning and on the bike by 5:50. I arrived at the beginning of the trail just after 6 and walked hurriedly to the viewpoint -- about twenty more minutes. Unfortunately, it wasn't a perfect day for the photo -- there was a cloud circling the top of Mt. Cook, and a gentle breeze was causing ripples on the lake surface. But I still got several pretty good shots, one of which is above. (the 6 mile round trip biking doesn't really qualify this as a cyling day).

We met for breakfast at around 8 and then three of us took a walk to the face of the Fox glacier. This was about a three hour round trip walk. The one big surprise to me was that we saw several large chunks of ice -- I would estimate 400 pounds or so each -- floating in the glacial river outflow. Although the glacier face has lots of dirt, the breakaway ice chunks were crystal clear.

We have four cycling days left, including our longest single day (a little over 70 miles). We should have some good climbing as well as some long easy stretches.

The little village of Fox Glacier, where we are staying, consists of helicopter services, guide services, motels, small cafes, a general store, and a gas station. The helicopter services apparently do a great business. For $190 you can get a 20 minute helicopter ride over the glacier which includes a snow landing so that you can step out "and experience the feeling of standing on snow." I wonder if they would let you shovel for an extra fee? I think that I have experienced enough snow to forego this thrill.

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