After a full week of miserable sniveling cold winter rain (as fitting as that is for the winter solstice) we were hungry for exercise and craving SNOW. News clips were full of impressive white drifts in towns closer to the mountains so we set out on Sunday in search of some fluffy white stuff. About an hour of driving through sodden green pastures towards the blazing white southern alps had us at the crusty foothills, but Arthur’s Pass road was closed to vehicles without tire chains (including us, in our ‘new’ 1996 Isuzu Bighorn 4×4), so we had to turn around. We settled for a picnic pull-off with the other non-chained reject cars, donned our equipment, jumped the pasture fence, and plodded out into the not-so-far-out wilderness.
“Mommy, I can’t put my arms down!” Milo’s layers rivaled Randy’s in A Christmas Story, minus the swaddling scarf, but he was a good sport about it. It’s not that the temperature was all that cold, but the wind was blowing and he would be just sitting in the pack instead of working up a sweat trudging through the snow.
We have yet to meet a Kiwi with a pair of snowshoes (they don’t even know what they are) but we still think they’re a good invention. They’re probably like central heating–a technology well used and loved in other parts of the world, but considered “pansy” and unnecessary by the no-frills Kiwis. We were glad to have them today, at any rate, since the snow varied from waist deep drifts to knee deep powder.
Cool cats! Well, the chewie in Milo’s mouth kinda ruins the effect, and Jeremiah would like to add the disclaimer that those sunglasses really aren’t his style. After loosing/breaking three pairs since we’ve been in NZ he found this pair on a hiking trail and adopted it for “car only” use. Sun on white snow made them “car and snow only” use.
We weren’t the only animals relieved to see the storm end. The hillside was crisscrossed with hare tracks, and we saw three running across the snow surface, much to Milo’s delight. The hillsides had areas of matagouri bushes (mean thorny legumous shrubs) that held up snow umbrellas, making deep pitfalls for hikers or good hide-outs for hare. As we approached one clump a hare ran out the top, and we could see the little niche where it had spent the last few hours nibbling on dry grass.
Another highlight for Milo was peeing on a bug in the snow. Don’t ask me why it’s Mommy’s job to assist with this process, as Daddy undoubtedly has more experience in this department. But we hit our target nevertheless, and the insect didn’t seem any worse for the wear.
We took lunch in the lee of a big rock, not in the sun but at least out of the wind and deep snow. Milo sure knows how to turn on the toothy grin when the camera comes out!
The sunglasses and palm-like tree look like they belong in Florida rather than in fresh snow. These are “cabbage trees,” iconic NZ natives, and apparently quite cold tolerant too.
After a sunny day the snow at the bottom of the hills was quite packable and slippery. We threw loose snow balls at each other and Milo’s squealy giggle was infectious. He thought sliding down this little slope was the cat’s meow. On our way back home we saw dozens of cars lining the road next to a little hill in a farmer’s field where kids were out sledding. If the snow sticks around until next weekend we’ll have to acquire a sled and give it a go.
Aw, another family shot. Behind us are the beginning of the southern Alps. Though we didn’t make it to our original destination for hiking, the snow at the foothills still presented enough of a challenge to be fun and give us a good excuse to curl up on the couch and relax this evening.
Keas are usually parrots that we see higher up in the mountain peaks, but this one must have wandered down to get some respite from last week’s storm. It stood there quite photogenically but didn’t follow us or offer to steal our belongings like Keas usually do, so maybe it was still catching its breath and wondering when it had last seen this much snow dropped at once. Perhaps it’s birdie grandparents had told it tales of walking to school in deep wintery drifts back in the olden days….