So now it's day five, which is also Valentine's Day! What did *YOU* do for Valentine's Day? Did you take a helicopter up to the top of a glacier and then drink wine within five miles of where it was produced? No? Then that's too bad...because THAT'S WHAT WE DID!!
We were initially signed up for a half day trek that involved a helicopter ride to a certain point on the glacier and then a lot of walking around in a lot of layers of clothing and super ugly shoes, but that didn't end up working out. More about that and our Plan B later, but first let me tell you that while Carrie was showering, I walked down to one of the multiple adorable cafes and picked us up some coffee and baked goods.
I was chatting with the gay guy at the counter about our plans for the day and he made a comment to me about how insanely dreamy all the glacier guides were, and then on cue, one of them walked in and yeah...dreamboat...but honestly, if you've seen one strapping young glacier guide, you've seen them all, right?
Half an hour later Carrie and I were standing in the lobby of the glacier guide office and as it turns out, one strapping young glacier guide in the cafe was lovely, but a room full of them gives a girl whiplash. I don't even know the words to describe it, but being in a room full of young, strapping, handsome men with an air of "I can save you in a wilderness emergency" made me feel like SUCH an old lady ogling at fresh young meat.
And then one walked through the lobby carrying an ax on his shoulder and Carrie and I both lost focus. The outward display of masculinity was something that we just don't see enough of in Silicon Valley.
It seriously would have been a problem if we'd been assigned that particular Paul Bunyan, but lucky for us, we got a guide named Ben (in NZ this is pronounced Beeeen) who was adorable but more on on the sinewy side, which is less our flavor so he was, thankfully, less distracting. Throughout the course of the hour or so we spent with Beeeeen, we learned that he lived in a tree house with his German (I think?) girlfriend. He'd apparently also just had a haircut because people all over that town were stopping to compliment him on it, including small children. Either because it was a dramatic haircut or because New Zealand is filled with the nicest people ever. My guess is both.
So then Beeeeen got us all suited up and the weather was the strangest combination of cold and humid and then you put on a rubber outfit and OOOOMMGGG I was hot and cold and wearing used shoes and socks and was generally discombobulated.
Carrie rocked the look better than I did, but she fit into the regular size jackets and apparently the choices are either regular or HUGE. I was very self conscious of my too-big-and-different-from-everyone-else's jacket because I felt like it highlighted me as the Fatty McFatterson.
After getting more of a safety lesson than we got for bungee jumping, we marched out and waited for our helicopter.
Believe it or not, these were *not* the ugliest shoes we'd be issued during our time in NZ!!
Our group was split into two helicopters' worth of bodies and the first one loaded up, lifted six feet off the ground, annnnnnnnd then landed again.
Apparently the visibility was bad and the tour company decided to ground all trips until the afternoon.
I was hot and not pleased with my rubber ensemble so I wasn't hearrrrrrrrtbroken that our glacier adventure was getting scrapped (we needed to get going to our next destination and couldn't wait until the afternoon), but mostly I was bummed that we hadn't been on that first helicopter and that I wasn't going to be able to say I'd ridden in a helicopter, even if for only ten seconds and six feet. But that's life, so we went back to the dressing area, stripped off our snow gear, got our money back for the trip, and then paused at a local cafe to evaluate our options.
We somehow discovered that other travel companies were still flying to the glacier for tours (versus treks), but I think perhaps to a different location that was somehow less unsafe? So we regrouped and walked into the first helicopter tour company we came to (there were several), and HOT DIGGIDY DOG, they were still flying and we could get on the next tour in like 30 minutes.
This one didn't require any special gear and it was definitely more of a passive tour than a strenuous hike and I think it was JUST what the doctor ordered because it was awesome and it was totally the right choice for us.
BREAKER BREAKER TEN-FOUR GOOD BUDDY!
Our helicopter pilot Andrew (it's just now occurring to me that our original glacier hiking guide and our helicopter pilot had the same names as my brothers! Except that we pronounce "Ben" the correct way and not "Beeeeeeeeeeeen") was a tight-panted air cowboy who flew us up to the top of the glacier:
And omg you guys, we had been in a steamy rainforest 15 minutes earlier and suddenly we were on the top of the world.
Cowboy Helicopter Pilot Andrew let us play around in the snow for ten or fifteen minutes before packing us back up and flying us back down the glacier.
The scenery was crazy because in the matter of six or seven minutes' worth of flight time, we went from snowy wonderland to icy glacier'y drama with pools of blue that make you understand that "glacier blue" isn't just a randomly picked name for a color, to the glacier transitioning to the rainforest and then BOOM, straight up rainforest where, if you didn't turn to look behind you, you'd never even know there was a glacier behind you.
This brief, 30-minutes-from-start-to-finish, tour we went on actually turned out to be the EXACT perfect thing for us and I'm so happy it turned out the way it did.
Once we were back on the ground, we changed out of our now soaking wet shoes and socks and went full steam ahead to the Marlborough region so we could rest up and prepare for the next day's wine tasting bonanza.
It was another long driving day, but this time we put the pedal to the metal and zip, zip, zipped our way there in time to check into our B&B (it was my first time B&B'ing, which I thought was initially awkward, but ultimately turned out to be very pleasant) and go out for a very romantical Valentine's Day dinner.
One other note I'll make about that drive is that by this time we'd listened to our new BFF Dolly mullllltiple times (there's very inconsistent radio coverage on the south island) and my gas station CD purchase of classic American pop hits (the pickings were slim) was a huge dud so we left it in a bathroom somewhere (as we did with the other CDs we bought along the way...with the exception of Dolly, of course, who will stay in the CD players of our hearts forever and ever).
So we arrived at the B&B, threw our bags in the room and then headed out for dinner. The town was not exactly bustling, but we did manage to find a perfectly lovely Indian restaurant that offered delicious food, local wine, and romantic decor -- we couldn't have asked for more.
You can see that I'm still wearing my glacier'ing ensemble, which means that I really went all out for Valentine'ing with Carrie.
Tired and full, we headed back to the B&B and closed the book on day five!