Pink light glows on the mountains and glaciers. A perfect sky for a day trip. Harry and I have been assigned to the lunch making squad – cheese, hummus and avocado sandwiches, chocolate and nuts and a few exploded hard boiled eggs.
It’s a significant drive around the lake – much of it I’ll walk when I rejoin the track – paragliders sail off the cliffs and sheep block the way on a gravel road filled with streams to ford. We pass a track to the top of a peak that was listed as a ‘must do’ and is packed with cars. Our hike to the glacier is far less crowded.
Kerrie and Andrew have superb hats I may need to acquire. New Zealand has no ozone and the highest incidence of skin cancer in the world. Andrew tells me he’s had melanoma removed and takes no chances. I’ve lathered up my face which is getting too much sun even with a hat.
The canyon is stunning with a river in a color I call ‘chalqua,’ the air fresh and redolent, the lumpy cliffs seen in exquisite detail in the morning light.
Andrew tells me that New Zealand needs to come to terms with the number of tourists visiting, a number that far exceeds the population. There’s no charge to get into national parks, and freedom camping is getting out of hand. Too much is just given away for free.
This trail is heavily used and easy walking even if uphill. A washed out section has been rerouted with stairs. Beech trees covered in soft moss reach their long, lanky arms filled with millions of tiny, waxy leaves towards the trail. After a swing bridge with a cooling breeze at its center that feels like glacial A/C, we turn right up another rushing stream in white and blue, fed by enormous waterfalls.
The ice booms like thunder above our heads in views that are unreal in sheer size and number of falls rushing down schist, flat panels of white fluff. The glacier is sectioned, its bright blue innards on display. In a meadow carved by this glacier’s great grandad who once filled the valley, we sit safely admiring the beauty.
Our packed lunch is consumed, someone even thought to bring cups for hot thermosed tea. On the return, Harry and I sing songs as we meet two backpackers who I tell missed their turn. They take it with good nature.
On the way in, I spied a ‘real fruit’ ice cream truck and treat everyone to large servings of berry ice cream. As Andrew pulls out, a giant bus appears and I suggest he go fast to get in front.
We’re all bushed when we return in the heat. I buy some local brew and the other three have tea or non-alcoholic beer having stopped drinking altogether for health reasons. A South Island tom tit flies into the living room and I carefully coax him back out.
Andrew finds Paul Simon’s Graceland in his record collection and we crank it loud, singing and dancing, stopping only to flip it over. Ry Cooder is next, then a CD of Renaissance polyphony during a dinner of Shepherd’s Pie.
Kerrie disappears to a book telling me she’d heard the stories before as Andrew and Harry banter about all sorts of off-limits topics like religion and politics The sun goes down on us all sitting in comfy chairs and couches, reading.
I needed a break – even if I hiked a bit today – just to talk about everything under the sun, dance and sing, and eat too. Everyone is impressed with what I’ve taken on, while keeping it in the context of a larger world so I don’t get too drawn into my inner – and singular – drama of walking full time. I must say I enjoyed that easy walking where I moved more slowly and studied my surroundings a bit more.
And nothing says joy like dancing in my bare feet.