After my stellar day hitching from Nelson down to Graymouth, I was deeply disappointed by a 30km day that found me waiting in the rain for over an hour twice before giving up and finding a backpacker hotel in Hokitika. The next day however found me in the backseat of a car with a couple from Peru that had taken 6 months off to go traveling. They got me all the way to Franz Josef and dropped me off in front of the Glacier Guides where Delaware Johnny works. Delaware Johnny is an old bluegrass pickin buddy of Tate’s the he had met years ago in the Ecuadorian jungle. I’d been hearing about this guy for years, but we’d never met. I knew that he was just 1000 miles away from Whangarei, so meeting up with Johnny was my main goal for my current little expedition. Johnny was up on the glacier guiding a tour when I hit town, but he instantly recognized my guitar playing fuzzy self across the street in the little park when he got back.
The bustling metropolis of Franz Josef, that’s pretty much the whole town:
So Johnny and his roommate Greg take me back to the house to get situated then its off to one of the guides going away party and I get to meet just about everyone in town right off the bat. It was a great time, pickin and eating cheese steaks cooked on an old cast iron sawblade laid over the fire. The next day Johnny got me on his glacier tour, so we spent 6 hours out on the ice. It was a great tour, with Johnny leading a group of 11 of us swinging his ice axe almost the entire time cutting steps and ensuring a secure route. It was amazing just being out on the glacier, but we got to also hike through a crevasse for a while and go through 2 ice caves….absolutely spectacular!
Johnny cooking up some amazing cheese steaks on an old cast iron saw blade grill
Me about ready to climb out of an ice cave
Hiking through a crevasse:
Delaware Johnny and myself at the high point on the glacier walk:
Fortunately both Greg and Johnny have the same two days off, so along with Alex the banjo player and a couple other guides we took off the other day and drove the 3.5 hours down to Wanaka to do some climbing. Unfortunately my camera battery was dead and my charger is on Bodhran, so I didn’t get any pics on the way down, but the scenery was amazing. We spent two days down there pickin, climbing and then pickin some more. I got my first two rock climbs in since I was in the army in Korea 14 years ago. Just a 12 and a 13 on the NZ rating scale, but it was a lot of fun. Most of the time I sat down below and played guitar while everyone else was climbing. And speaking of playing music, we were waiting for the 8:30 showing of Burn After Reading at this great little theater/pizza place that has a bunch of old couches and arm chairs for seating. We had 30 minutes to kill before the movie started, so Alex, Johnny and I were playing on the grass outside when up walks Bob from Kelowna BC who just happens be a flatpicker in a bluegrass band. Well there wasn’t enough time before the movie, but we agreed to meet up at a cafe after the days climbing and play some music. Turns out to be one of those fantastic nights where we end up playing for 4 hours with round after round of beer showing up and a big crowd of people hanging around while we’re just having a great time playing music. We didn’t make it out of Wanaka until almost 11 and thank God Ned wasn’t playing music (wasn’t drinking free beer) so that he could drive us home.
Hiking across Hospital Flats to get to the climbing wall:
Johnny in the foregound with Rob behind him and Greg up the wall:
Pickin in Wanaka: (Ned, Johnny, Alex, Bob and myself)
I’m back in Franz Josef again now. This is just too good of a scene here to move on too soon. I’ll probably stick around for at least another week before continuing on again. The next question will be, do I continue south? or is it time to get back to Bodhran?