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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Incredible Sky

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Today was a wonderful day. I met up with 4 of my lovely girlfriends for an afternoon out.

We went to see Cinderella performed by the Joffrey Ballet. It was beautiful. I wish you could have seen the faces of the little girls in the audience.

I saw that the Joffrey Ballet was performing and sent an evite to all my favorite gals. I wasn't sure who would be interested and thought it would be nice to go as a group. Amy I've known since kindergarten, Celeste since high school, April since we worked together a couple years ago and Adrienne I met when she photographed our engagement session and wedding.

I seriously love that I can get together with a random grouping of friends and they all get along fabulously.

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There really isn't anything like some time out with the girls.

But now I'm tired. More honeymoon posts soon (I am ~almost~ done. Maybe. Kinda) but for now just a few pictures of the incredible sky on a drive in New Zealand.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Hiking on the Franz Josef Glacier

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Hiking the Franz Josef Glacier was one of the highlights of the trip for me. Its hard to pick a favorite activity considering so many of them were new experiences... both scary and exhilirating.

But really, how many times do you get to hike on a shorts....with a backdrop of waterfalls?

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We booked the the hike with Franz Josef Glacier Guides. They have several options and supply you with shoes, pants (if its needed) and coats as well as crampons. B was very excited and proud that we already had what we needed so we used all of our own stuff, with the exception being crampons. Crampons is a weird word.

All of these pictures are SOOC, straight out of camera.

Here you see the glacier ahead of us. Thats 1.8 miles before we hit the glacier base.

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We waited in line as we all crossed the stream on these rocks. Did I mention B hates walking? He really isn't fond of hiking either. This is why I booked the half day excursion and not the full day. This will become apparent later in the post.

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There are basically piles of these rocks from here to the glacier. This is what we are walking on majority of the time. I thought they were quite pretty. Many of them had a metallic sheen that I had to continually photograph.

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This is where we stopped before pressing forward. You cannot go past this without a guide.

I should mention that before this the large group broke into 5 smaller groups according to physical fitness. Our guide said those who consider themselves very fit and would like to go at a faster pace as well as do some trail maintenance should be in group 1.

B looked over and said "So we'll go in group 1?" and I do remember saying sure and sort of shrugging.

Then I contemplated the repercussions of my thoughtless actions.

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How adorable is the girl in front of me. Not a single love handle or roll of back fat to be seen.

I started to get a little weary. I had to focus. Thats the trick to things that make you nervous. This ladder was odd because you are sort of crawling up it. It was worse going down with crampons on.

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These are crampons! They basically attach to your shoes so you don't slip and fall and slide off the glacier and take out your fellow hikers.

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Apparently being in group 1 and doing trail maintenance means that our guide checks the trail and screws in the anchors so we don't plummet to our death.

I don't really want to plummet to my death.

I'm such a wimp.

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Then he checks the first set of stairs. He told us that anyone who was nervous should come up front so he could help them up. Of course, we were in the very back so I told B that he had better make sure I don't do something stupid and hurt myself.

Thats a much harder job than you might think.

We weren't allowed to take pictures while going up these stairs. Thats fine because I was far too busy focusing on just the stair in front of me. I was careful not to look back down.

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Occasionally we would stop and the guide would tell us a bit about the glacier and its history.

He also told us that the trail we were walking on was man made. Basically, its a huge crevasse and they chip ice into it until it stops up and then freezes over night. Then they test to make sure its stable to walk on.

This whole time I thought that they were saying crevice with an accent, pronouncing it crevasse. But really crevice and crevasse are two different words.

Vocabulary fail.

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The problem is that once you are on the glacier you feel like things are fairly stable and you get comfortable.

Until your guide points to this and repeats several times that we should not step on it. We must step OVER it because if we step ON it he's "not sure how far you'll fall".

At this point I temporarily forgot how to take large steps. I bought myself some time by taking a picture.

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B is loving this hike and is thinking that I am the bestest wife evah for having planned out such a totally superb honeymoon.

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Stunning. Ice, trees, blue skies.

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This is what they use to poke thru the snow/ice and see if we'll fall thru when we step on it.

We found out here that the glacier doesn't go all the way down to the ground. Under the glacier is a river of water that flows down the valley.

I wonder if they tell this to groups 2-5?

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More stairs. Don't fall off the side.

Actually the problem with these stairs is that they are high. I'm 4'11" and my legs are approximately 5 inches long. The gentleman in front of us is looking back at me because he just took a really big step to get up there.

I'm giggling.

He reached back, grabbed my hand and hoisted me up. Good man.

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I call this piece:
Death on a Glacier

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This is our final destination (I really could have kept on going). See me with my pick? I could totally use that thing. ~snort~

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B is drinking some fresh glacial water.

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Oh B, why must you stand so close to the edge?

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This is what keeps us from falling down the stairs.

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Its amazing how tempting it is to go up and look inside the crevasse. The blue ice is a result of the ice being compacted until all the air bubbles are squeezed out. Then light hits the ice and the light is absorbed at the red end of the spectrum resulting in us seeing the blue (less absorbed) color only.

I think.

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I would do this again in a heart beat.

Even if we could occasionally hear and or see rocks and ice falling near the glaciers edge.

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Its like another world. I can hardly believe that the day before we were at the beach and the day before that we were kayaking in a lake.
Did you know the guides train for 6-8 months to be able to cut these stairs?

We reluctantly headed back.

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As we were climbing back down the ladder we heard a loud boom.

See that chunk of ice in the water? If you look closely you can see the splashing from debris hitting the river.

That piece of ice weighs several tons.

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Chunks of ice were bobbing in the water. The river is grey because the water is picking up "rock flour". Its dust from the rock valley wall washing away.

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At this point B is over it. That glacial high has faded. We left on this excursion 4 hours ago and he wants to be back on the shuttle.

Did I mention he hates walking? 1.8 miles back.

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We passed gorgeous waterfalls again.

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I stopped to take pictures of rock and metallic sand but B was too far ahead.

The man was on a mission. Visions of dinner danced in his head.

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I'm serious. He didn't even wait to cross the stream nicely. The man just stomped right through it.

He was totally over it. Probably how you feel if you made it this far into the post.

We ended this incredible day with dinner at The Canopy Restaurant and a soak in the outdoor hot pools surrounded by lush rainforest.

If you didn't get enough and you feel like more you can check out our album here:
(the first couple are repeats of the post but there are quite a bit more of the glacier itself)

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Glen Fern Villas & Speights Restaurant, Franz Josef

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For the record, I'm posting the New Zealand pictures in no particular order. I had intended to post the trip in order of what we did but I don't always feel like posting about meat pies so I'll post about something else instead.

Only thats not really true.

I'm pretty sure I can always post about meat pies.

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About 10 days into our trip we had taken the TranzAlpine train across the Southern Alps and then driven past some fantastic rock art and found ourselves in Franz Josef.

I hadn't thought much about this part of our trip. I had booked the glacier hike and then stopped looking into it. I'm not sure why.

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So it was a total treat when we drove up to the Glen Fern Villas. We had spent the entire time in hotels and this little villa was a fantastic change! It had a separate bedroom and living room AND a kitchenette. If you ever find yourself in the area you should definitely stay here.

When B and I first started looking into this trip we both decided that we would rather spend money on food than hotels. The hotels that we stayed at were fine but not spectacular. But staying here really broke up the monotony.

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The kitchen is furnished so all we had to do was head into town for groceries. I wish my drawers would look like this at home.

Oh and the gentleman at the front desk asked me what kind of milk (cream, skim, etc.) I like in my coffee and then gave me a little 1/2 pint of it. I thought that was super cute.

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We headed into town about 5 minutes away in search of some food.

I loved this little town. It felt the way little towns that are next to National Parks do. I had flashbacks from being in Yosemite. People were walking around with gear and planning activities for the next day.

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After 6+ hours of being in the car (besides all the little side jaunts and picture stops) B was in desperate need of a beer. Desperate.

We spotted Speights Landing Bar and Restaurant. It seems to be the happening place around here.

I think that comment made me sound like an old lady. Happenin'.

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We started with New Zealand green lip mussels in a wine and tomato sauce.

I'm not huge into mussels because I made the mistake once of biting into one and looking at it. ~shudder~ But we hadn't had them yet and they were on my mental list of things I needed to try while there.

Its not that I don't like them, I just can't look at them when I eat them.

These were really good. Not mushy or overly chewy. They were supposedly served with salsa but I find that in New Zealand this just means a tomato sauce because its nothing like what we consider salsa. This was almost like a pasta sauce.

The mussels themselves were sweet. What is it about NZ seafood being so sweet? Is it the cold, fresh water?

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This is the Akaroa Salmon (I can cross that off my local to-try foods) topped with grilled asparagus wrapped in bacon. You could wrap anything in bacon and make me happy.

That ginormous wedge underneath is scalloped potato. Genius. Its cut like a pie and it solid enough to hold shape but completely tender when bitten into. The red sauce is cranberry sauce and the white is.... hollandaise.

It wasn't until recently that I realized hollandaise is really "butter whipped into submission". I wish I didn't know now what I didn't know then. I will not let knowledge get in the way of my eating.

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Pile 'o meat. The actual name for this was Johnny Cash something or other. Before I saw the plate I noticed the woman at the table next to us smiling and pointing to the dish.

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B loves ribs. Under there, somewhere is broccoli and the bowl on the side is full of mayo for said broccoli. A bowl of mayo?

It was really tasty and sticky and yummy and sticky.

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Speights take on the pavlova. (tried pavlova, check). This dish makes me laugh. There is a lot going on here. It reminded us of a person we once worked with. He was just learning the pastry station and all that goes into it. He would then try to put all these aspects into every dessert he plated.

We have the pavlova itself, swirly sauces, chocolate pieces, powdered sugar, tuile cookies, the cup for the ice cream is actually sugar, ice cream , whipped cream quenelle, fruit and large mint garnish.

Don't get me wrong, the dessert was good. The only thing I don't really like about the pavlova, and this sounds reeeeaaaaaly stupid, is that it smelled like egg whites. Of course, it is egg whites. I'll have to try this again some time.

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Outside these two were playing their music. At this point it was something that sounded distinctly Irish. It gave me the warm and fuzzies. I love Ireland.

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After grocery shopping (in the only market) we took one last look at the mountains. We were hoping the clouds would clear before we got on that glacier the next day.

Doesn't the fire look cool in that picture?

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That night we settled in to watch..... Lord of the Rings :)

The sunset was amazing.

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I stood here wondering how I came to be so lucky. I'm married. We have such a completely loving relationship. We've had our own ups and downs and yet here we are. Married.

Married and on a dream vacation. The best honeymoon ever. Excuse me while I cry a moment.

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In the morning I woke to the smell of breakfast. By the time this hit the table I was wondering if the other guests in Glen Fern Villas were on their way over.

This is breakfast for 2, B style.

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I went outside to see if it was still cloudy and this guy came walking by.

We don't see things like this often. I'm surprised my squealing didn't freak him out. He walked over and posed a bit.

I swear New Zealand has the friendliest animals ever.

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And guess what? The sun was shining. It was bright and clear as we prepared for our adventure on a glacier.

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As we prepared for this.

Do you see that little red speck on the bottom? Thats a man.

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If you look closer you'll see little ridges along the ice. Those are stairs. Ice stairs.

Did I mention I'm scared of heights?
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