So you know what’s pretty incredible about the south island? The fact that a few days ago, if you recall, I was trekking along the beach here:
And then, just two days later, I was tramping away in an overcoat and woolen mittens here:
Which brings me to another interesting fact about New Zealand’s south island: you can pay a lot of people to do a lot of things in the world, but I defy you to name any place else on this earth where, for what suddenly seems like a very reasonable outpouring of cash, you can hire a former Calvin Klein underwear model to pick-axe you a passage across a glacier.
This, it must be said, is a pretty incredible experience, no matter who is carving up foot holds and tunnels before your eyes. You get to hear a lot of Kiwis say the word glacier, which is pronounced “glay-see-uh” here and thus sounds more like a relaxing spa treatment than an icy, daunting challenge. You get to crane your neck up at four-story-high ice towers that look like the royal city from The Never-ending Story, and walk gingerly up Seussian-village-style frozen steps. Wearing these on your feet:
The whole day felt a lot like canyoning in Martinique. Did I ever tell you about the time I went canyoning in Martinique? No? Oh, well, now you can conveniently read all about it here and share it with all of your friends. Please? Go ahead, I’ll wait.
Got it? OK, good. Well the whole day was a lot like that except frozen. And white. And the shade of blue you always think was invented and copyrighted by Adobe Photoshop or Walt Disney. Because, you know, Walt may have wanted to use it for the Matterhorn.
When you’re hiking through scenery that’s somehow both incredibly varied and subtly, monochromatically consistent, it’s difficult to tell exactly how far you’ve come or how far you have left to go. The fact that your path becomes pretty circuitous as you make your way around the ever-changing obstacles — slush, disappearing ice-block steps, falling rock — also makes it harder to gauge distance or progress. If I can get a little cliché here for a minute, I’ll just point out that that’s a pretty nice little parallel when I realize that in just two days I’ll be hitting my one-month mark in New Zealand. It feels as if I just got here, but also, oddly, as if my lifestyle has morphed so quickly and so completely that I may as well have been here, living in the same two pairs of shoes and hooded fleece jacket, waking up in a new landscape every few days, forever.