Tuesday, May 03, 2005

I Wanna

Mist hangs heavy over the rainforest. Somewhere above, towering peaks leap from the low-grade clouds into the brilliant blue. The valley is filled with the cacophony of falling water, and every so often the steely ice groans as though its arthritic knees are giving way. There are two places on the planet where glacial fingers of ice reach deep into lush rainforest. Guess what? New Zealand is one of those places.

We came to Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers with the hope of walking on the ancient blue ice. Wanting to feel the life contained in the frozen rivers, we were ready to part with the funds required to hire a guide and the proper gear. However, we were waylaid by Wanaka. Wanaka, New Zealand, that is.

I wanna live in Wanaka. Huge mountains shelter the quaint town on the shores of a picture-perfect lake. Gin-clear streams meander through the valley, and ten-pound trout call them home. Waterfalls thunder from above. Ski fields dot the local peaks. Trails snake into the surrounding wilderness, and Mount Aspiring National Park provides a stunning backdrop to it all.

We had planned to stop for one night, but were beguiled by Wanaka’s charms, and couldn’t tear ourselves away for two days. Oooops, no ice exploration this time. Big rainbows will have to suffice.

From Wanaka north, one sees icy-cold glaciers and perfect white sand beaches within moments of each other. Unexplained geologic formations dot the coast, and seals and penguins frolic in the Tasman Sea. There are few people, and the folks that are there are warm and welcoming. It is far from the stress and aggravation of modern life. It is the kind of place you could stay forever.

Enjoy the West Coast Photo Gallery.

Enjoy video of New Zealand's crazy flightless Weka.

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