A miracle happened today: a PC computer at the campus library read my memory card without error! Hence, I was able to upload the following anectdote which I wrote two weeks back while still travelling on the South Island.

Theresa and I were marveling the bright turquoise water of a small river that was rushing its way over rocks and boulders. Theresa then made an interesting comment about the weather.

“Did you know that they don’t have lightning in New Zealand?”
“Really? That’s strange. How do you know, maybe you’ve just never seen any.”
“Well, I don’t know about the North Island, but I know there’s none on the South Island for sure. I’ve talked to Kiwis about it.”
“Wow. So do they even know what lightning is?”
“Well ya,” she said, laughing at me. “Sure they do.”
“So kinda like we don’t have clean water but we know what it is?”
“Yeah like that.”

After leaving Queenstown on Sunday afternoon, our route lead us to the West Coast, which the guidebooks tout as the most rustic, wild, and untouched region in New Zealand. One main road takes you through this territory, SH6, which hardly lives up to its ‘highway’ classification. The road twists and turns madly through temperate rain-forest, with no shoulders to speak of less you cut one bend short or swing another too wide. Along a 300km stretch only a couple of other vehicles passed us. We were really far away from anywhere.

We drove through open valleys, along charming creeks and over rolling hillsides. We passed a group of reindeer grazing in a pasture. Snow covered mountain peaks towered on either side of the valley, dwarfing our tiny Toyota. This was the definition wild. Truly, unspoiled planet. Looking at all the landscape sweeping by the car window, I was in awe that mankind hadn’t hunted down this precious piece of Earth and ruined it already before I got here.

At 7:30pm, nearly two hours after sunset, we reached the town of Fox Glacier. Any place that doesn’t have a grocery store, or even a gas station, shouldn’t really be allowed to call itself a town. We’ve found so many of these so-called ‘towns’ along our trip.

“Did we pass Harhihari yet?”
“Yeah, didn’t you see it? It was about 5km back.”
“You mean the couple shacks and that 4 car parking lot?”
“I think one of those shacks was the visitor’s center.”
“Visitor center for what?”

The next morning, we took a self-guided walk to the Fox Glacier. Ropes blocked off the end of the trail, which stopped about 100m before the glacier face. The Fox was a big huge flow of ice, frozen (excuse the pun) dead in its track, looking ready to crash down into the valley before it. Here and there you could see blue colored ice in its crevasses. It was fairly impressive. After taking some photos, we walked back, got in the car and started driving out of the park. On the way out, a sign next to the road marked where the glacier’s terminal face had been 50 years ago. Two kilometers later, another one: “In 1887 the glacier was here.” It had obviously melted massive amounts in the past century. There are a lot of reasons why a glacier advances or “retreats” (melts), but it seemed to me that it had melted a lot in recent history.

Was this unspoiled Earth? On second thought, I don’t think humans had to even step foot on the West Coast to launch environmental sabotage. Through global warming, we’ve managed it from the other side of the world.

(P.S. New Zealand does in fact experience lightning. Theresa needs to get out more.)