Spending a full day (6 hours ice time) hiking on the Franz Joseph Glacier on the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island was something I’d been looking forward to for months. It was fully my intent to do the full day hike, however…
About 3 days after I had completed the Tongariro Crossing (remember that 12-mile volcanic tramp?), a walking tour of Wellington, and various little bus-stop scenic walks, I had started to feel pain in my left leg. I couldn’t quite place it - possibly a calf strain, or something with my knee, though the pain was different than what I was having earlier in the year. I was limping around quite a bit though it was bearable. On my deceptively long walk to the beach for the sunset in Barrytown, I felt a shooting pain that seriously concerned me. Clearly the Ibuprofen pills and topical gel I’d been using weren’t helping much.
Given the 4-hour half-day glacier hikes seemed lame, I opted to upgrade to a heli-hike. Basically, you get a scenic helicopter ride up the glacier (higher than where the regular hikes go), hike around for 1.5 hours, and then get a ride back down. I had been eying a helicopter ride for Queenstown, so I figured why not kill 2 birds with 1 stone. I knew my left leg would thank me.
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In late 2007, I quit my job and left the comfortable life in the USA for the open road with nothing but a 20-pound backpack, a …
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