Although I couldn’t see the Fox Glacier, there were definitely indications of its presence. The valley had a telltale “U” shape and the river bank was peppered with “river surge” warning signs. There were also the groups of tourists in ice climbing gear; wearing a look of disbelief as they surveyed their tropical surroundings, ice picks in hand.
I also had a hard time believing that a frozen block of ice was just around the corner. I wasn’t being pessimistic about the effects of global warming, I just couldn’t help but observe things like: luscious ferns, the silvery threads of waterfalls, and the hot sunny weather. As I walked, the dull thud of a helicopter sounded above. I knew the heli hike tours were going somewhere icy, but as I peeled off sweater layers I wondered how it could possibly be cold enough for a glacier.
It sounds impossible, but it’s true. New Zealand is one of only two places in the world where glaciers extend into temperate zones; Argentina being the other location. Although the view from the footpath isn’t really the best (the guided tours and heli hikes have the best views), that wasn’t what the experience was really about. It was about being at the beach, dipping our feet into the cool Tasman Sea and then heading a short distance through the rainforest to see an enormous chunk of ice. Insane!
After seeing the Fox Glacier, we headed north along the highway to visit the Franz Josef Glacier- which had even more stunning waterfalls. I wish we could have gotten closer, but I knew better than to cross the barrier. There were plenty of signs reminding visitors of the two Australian brothers killed by a collapsing ice shelf.
The only way we could cap off such an unbelievable day was with a possum pie. Ever since I’d read about the Bushman’s Centre, which is the only place in New Zealand that serves possum meat, I knew I had to go. When we finally got there, I jumped out of the car, swung my bag onto my shoulder, and heard a dull thump. It was my digital camera hitting the gravel parking lot. Shit- it was broken. I should have checked the zip on my backpack.
So I had gotten a little ahead of myself, but who wouldn’t get excited about invasive species baked goods? The lighting of the café-cum-museum was too dim for my vintage Polaroid camera, so there was to be no photos of possum pelt chair covers or notice boards full of disgruntled customer letters. I was super bummed and the only thing that made me feel better was an entire bag of Pineapple Lumps over a discussion about controversial vertebrate pesticides.
Oh, and of course possum pie.
By the way Barret, how does it taste?
“Uh,” he considered as he picked at his tongue, “it’s got some hairs.”
How to get to the:
Fox Glacier: Westland National Park- State Hwy 6, just south of Weheka
Franz Josef Glacier: Westland National Park- State Hwy 6, just south of the Franz Josef township
Bushman’s Centre: Pukekura, State Hwy 6- 35 minutes south of Hokitika