Drag Queens, Eating HuHu Grubs, Collapsed Tents, Glaciers and Ice Climbing
09.03.2012 - 12.03.2012
At the weekend I headed to the town of Hokitika, which is normally pretty quiet and used as a stop off to check out the Jade shops, but the second weekend of March the population jumps from 3,000 to 15,000 when people gather for the Wild Foods Festival. The weekend involved quite a variety of entertainment, including a Ukulele band, NZ Army band, Some tribute acts (Johnny Cash and The Doors), a fair bit of country music, and the main attraction...The Divine Drag Divas, four men dressed up in amazingly sparkly costumes lead by a 120kg drag queen called Miss Ribena (who were suprisingly graceful jumping round in massive high heels).
Other than the music as a form of entertainment, there was also an amazing selection of foods to be had (really it was a day filled with eating, spaced out with some music whilst you made space for more eating). My selection of foods included HuHu Grub, Shark, Whitebait Fritter, Honey Comb, Smoked Eel, Ostrich Pie, Some kind of rare duck I dont remember the name of, Moonshine (which tasted suspiciously like mouthwash), Honey mead and ice cream (well it cant all be adventurous). The festival also had the added benefits of a market in town, and my campsite was a mere 5 minutes walk from main area. It was an enjoyable weekend, with alot of colourful costumes and interesting food/entertainment, with the only downside being coming back to my tent late at night in the rain and finding it collapsed (then having to deal with the drunk people who tried to help me put it back up, who were effectively following me round the tent undoing the work I had done already with the intention of being "helpful")
The following day (once I faced the rain and bundled up a wet tent into the back of my car, always a joy) I made the drive down to Franz Josef Glacier where I spent the afternoon being thoroughly lazy whilst it poured with rain outside, preparing for a full day of ice climbing the next day (apparently it was due to clear up, which was hard to believe at the time)
Sure enough it did clear up the next day and the trip did go ahead (even though "cleared up" meant grey drizzle and occasional rain) however although we all got wet, we were pretty well prepared (they supplied coats, boots and water proof trousers) and the majority of the day it stayed dry and relatively clear, The sun did make an appearance for the last 10 minutes whilst we were walking out and actually I think we made a lucky escape as it was absolutely boiling, which wouldnt have been too fantastic for climbing.
Anyway once we were all kitted up, the day started with a 45minute walk to the glacier, where we then had to do kitting up stage 2 (crampons, harnesses and helmets) and then got out on the ice. We then had about a 10 minute walk over the glacier (Guides cut out steps with pickaxes and shovels) to the wall we were going to climb. After some quick instuction (stick your axes into the ice, kick your feet into the ice, go upwards) we were off. the first climbs werent hard (though having rock climbing experience definitely helped) though I had the added challenge on the first wall of having one of my axes taken away from me on the easier climbs to make it "more of a challenge".
Throughout the day, those of us who wanted to, got to go on some harder overhanging things, which involved quite a few undignified slips, a bit of power grunting and some hanging on the ropes, but at least I made it to the top of everything!
So we all had a really good (though pretty knackering) day, and all returned in one piece at about 5pm (I came away with the only minor injury of the day when one of the girls decided to flail her legs in frustrated helplessness when she was climbing whilst I was walking past and I got a crampon kick to the back. luckily I had been belaying in a cold patch of the day and had about 3 million layers on, so only came away with a couple of tiny scratches and a bit of a bruise!). I would definitly reccomend ice climbing as it was a great day and there is just something satisfying about holding a couple of ice axes and going to town on some ice.
Next stop is Wanaka with some added new passengers for Ron (Emma and Tracey, two Irish girls I met in Greymouth) where one of the high up things on the to-do list is to visit puzzleworld...exciting stuff.