Thanks to Hollywood I imagined glaciers as massive white and glass blue sheets of ice glimmering under a crystal clear sky. Sadly what I experienced was vastly different and disappointing.
For six months in 2007 I worked as a chef in Mt.Cook(Aoraki), New Zealand. One fine morning the head chef asked me if I would like to go kayaking on a glacier. Of course I said yes as I am willing to try anything. In the back of my mind though the wheels were slowly turning trying to figure out how we would kayak on a sheet of ice.
We put two kayaks on top of her car and starting our off road drive. I scanned the mountains in the horizon trying to pick which of the beautiful white mountains held our glaciers. “Here we are”, she called after hardly any time had passed. We were pulling up to the edge of what was pretty much a filthy puddle. This, she explained to me, was a melting glacier. My heart sank. The beauty bubble I had built up in my mind popped. Here was a brown lake with filthy dirt covered pieces of ice scattered along a barren rocky shore. I could see where the glacier had been and the giant ravine it once owned but now it was just a sad shadow of its former self.
Well, no turning back now. So we got our kayaks and carried them to the water. Here I got a short and sweet safety briefing. “”It is dangerous so stay right next to me”. Seemed simple enough so we got in a paddled away. There wasn’t too much to look at as the view was exactly the same as from shore but I did get to have some fun. I saw some bubbles and was chasing them down when I heard a yell telling me to get away from them. I obliged her without so much as a peep and as I got away a huge piece of ice came bursting through the water right where I had been. It was fabulous. I do not understand why “avoid bubbles” couldn’t be part of the safety briefing but I suppose we all go for the dramatic in everything we do.
Deducing the dangerous secrets of a glacier lake and surviving I now got quite bored, so my host took me to the mouth of the glacier melt. The little stream of melting ice coming out of the glacier was the color water I had been expecting. It was a small but beautiful oasis in this jungle of sadness.
Shaking my fist at global warming deniers I climb into the kayak with my head a storm of emotion. How is it possible to turn a beautiful glacier into this mud pond and not give a toss about it? It has been a decade since. Does that pond exist now or is glacier kayaking in Aoraki only in my memories?