New Zealand 6 – Possum Socks

This past weekend marked the first getaway weekend I’ve had in New Zealand, and it was an amazing trip to start out on. There’s anywhere from a few to 15 people in the Christchurch office and we’re typically here for a few months to indefinitely. Therefore, especially for the shorter term employees, weekends are spent exploring all New Zealand’s two islands have to offer. There is A LOT! One of my coworkers is heading back home to California in a few weeks and the last item on her “NZ bucket list” was to hike a glacier. Most of the veteran NZ employees have done this, but the 4 new office employees (including myself) jumped on the opportunity.

The five of us woke up early Saturday and packed ourselves into 2 of our lovely ford focus rentals, paid a ridiculous amount of money for gas (New Zealand is climbing to almost $7US/gallon), and headed across the island to the west coast.

Typical Driving View (it never gets old)

We stopped in the small town of Hokitika for a lunch break and some quick shopping. I was given an extensive tour of the best shops to purchase jade jewelery (a native New Zealand stone, that can only be collected and sold by the Maori people) and found a great necklace. We also stopped in a possum fur shop. Possum hunting is encouraged since they are not a native species and are continually endangering the Kiwi bird. We figured we’d check out the fashion and were told possum socks were the way to go (versus wool).

The deer helped make this photo.

Our coworker/guide extraordinaire expressed interest in checking out a short hike to Lake Matheson, we obliged and were not disappointed.

I'd like my vacation home on this plot of land please.

We continued on to our hostel which was outfitted with giant community kitchen and back porch hot tub. Sleeping was a bit uncomfortable, but for $26NZ/night, I’m okay with that.

The next morning we awoke early and gathered at the Fox Glacier guide building. We were outfitted with crampons, hiking boots, and any other clothing accessory we may have needed. We signed up for the “all day hike”, meaning we all assumed we were in “great physical condition” (Not a hike meant for the Mature Tour bus we saw pull up. Yes, it was really called Mature Tours. It looked like the minimum age requirement may have been 75).

We had our choice of three guides — the Minnesotan, the Icelandic female, or the Kiwi. We choose the Kiwi–he seemed he knew what he was doing. He took us for a fairly (almost too) slow hike through a mountain pass to get some good views of the glacier from above, and then spent a good 5 hours tramping over the glacier itself. I’ll let the photos speak for me.

Showing off our crampons. The Captain Morgan pose works in so many life situations.

Just filling up at a glacier stream.

The bottom of the Fox glacier.

Our team (plus our friend from Sydney we insisted stay in our photo) chilling out in an ice hole.

Alone on the ice

Our trek starts to get more intense.

No such thing as a bad view

Coworkers + Kiwi guide Joe. Note Joe does not look happy at all. Definitely more of a "I-just-want-to-hike-guide" versus a "lets-sit-in-a-circle-and-talk-about-where-were-from" guide. He was great.

As for our next trip, I can’t even decide. I’ve been trying to get out of the veterans what their favorite experience has been but no one can pick one, or even a few–everything is great. I’m thinking either a low key wine tour day or maybe a trip to Queenstown may be in my future. For now back to the work week!