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Roaring Girl
The adventures of the yacht Roaring Girl wandering the seas.
Extreme danger

We didn't pass this sign. You can hear the ice creaking and the constant, irregular crack of boulders falling. Neither of us have any experience in this sort of landscape.
A few people were down on the river gravel, right up to the ice. Maybe many of them were experienced. One young lad we saw marched up the board, read it, looked at the protective ropes, and climbed through them. In flip flops!
We don't agree with yet more laws. Duffers can drown! We think that NZ (particularly vulnerable to this kind of stupidity demanding expensive rescue) should look at charging. If you go into the bush properly prepared and things go wrong, we'll come and get you (if we can). If we find that you were unprepared, and/or grossly stupid, we'll still haul you out. But we'll charge you the full cost, minimum $500. Seems fair to us.
Tomorrow Sarah is going on a guided walk on the Fox Glacier (and is childishly excited about it). Pip has decided she doesn't need that much cold in her life right now.

Places and people
The tongue
25/01/2008, At Fox Glacier terminal

Close up the tongue is huge. The very edge is grey and streaked with the remainder of the rocks it has chewed. Then the ice whitens, striated and fractured into flowing spires and stern buttresses. (These blocks are known as seracs.)

Places and people
The Valley
25/01/2008, Fox Glacier River Valley

It's about half an hour from the car park, not counting photo stops. The path winds along the rocks, sometimes flattened out and clearly marked. Many signs warn of the danger of rock falls, and urge people to stay on the path.
This picture is about half way along.

Places and people
Glittering stones

We walked up the valley to the glacier tongue. Lots of the stones are gleaming and sparking, filled with quartz and metals that catch the sun.

Places and people
Cliff walls

When the Maori came, some 800 years ago, the glaciers barely existed, just pockets of ice tucked into the neves at the top of the Alps. By 1750 the ice had pushed itself way down the mountains, back towards the sea. Now it has retreated again, the terminal some two miles further up the valley. These sheer rock walls are left behind, newly carved and shorn. When the glacier came this way, the ice was higher than these cliffs.
Obviously the ice advances and retreats in a complex pattern, but global warming is surely contributing its part to the current size of tongue.

Places and people
Milk water
25/01/2008, On a bridge

The Fox River is direct run off emerging from underneath the glacier. Here you can see that it is grey and silver, filled with rock flour that turns the spume to the colour of fine silk.

Places and people
25/01/2008, The River Walk, south of Fox River

Sarah was very excited, never having seen a glacier before. But here it is, Fox Glacier.

Places and people
Sunset over Fish Hill
24/01/2008, Lake Paringa


We stayed the night in a DOC site at Lake Paringa, an unmodified lake in a glacial valley. The huge rock, which resisted the erosion of the ice, protrudes into the Lake. The aerial photographs show why it is called Fish Hill, the outline like a huge cod.
Bad sandflies in the morning though, and we left quite quickly.

Places and people
Hercules last year; now Haast
24/01/2008, In the mountains

The lowest pass over the Divide, the line of Southern Alps that cuts down the South Island, is called the Haast, after one of the first Europeans to come here. There is a great gorge here, which was only bridged in the 20th century, called the Gates of Haast.
From here we drove down to Haast township and then south to Jacksons Bay. This tiny place was the site of an ill-fated settlement in the 1870's, which gradually melted away as settlers found easier and more profitable places to settle. When you consider the astonishing challenges of bush and climate in Southland or the fringes of Fjordland, you can see that the isolation, topography and vegetation must have been daunting indeed. Now, there's a wharf supporting the whitebait and cod trade.
We didn't see any major wildlife, though a nice bush track to the even more isolated Ocean's Bay we heard a lot of birds.

Places and people
Swings and gorges
24/01/2008, Crossing the Makarora

There are quite a few of these bridges, where the wooden deck sits amongst wires suspended from the steep cliffs each side of the river. This one, crossing the Makarora, is on the way to the Blue Pools.

Places and people
Blue Pools
24/01/2008, Err!

Well, it's obvious why they have the name. At this point the Blue River flows into the Makarora river, and this colour is created by the way light refracts on the icy, clear water. Lots of trout live in these rivers.

Places and people
No one in sight
24/01/2008, All alone


The following morning was spectacular and only slightly marred by the sandflies. (According to legend, the goddess of the underworld introduced these to Fjordland to ensure that humans wouldn't linger there, seduced to idleness by the beauty of the landscape. It works!)
The scenery on Lake Wanaka was also amazing. We could see at least a mile down the lake, itself half a mile across. In the dark, we could not see a single light on those hills; the only illumination came from the stars and bright moon.

Places and people

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Who we are
Who: Pip Harris and Sarah Tanburn
Port: Ipswich
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