Friday, January 27, 2012

Crossing the alps, but not in Switzerland

   FRANZ JOSEF, New Zealand – We crossed the alps Friday.
   Not the Swiss Alps. The Southern Alps of New Zealand.
   Yes, it snows here. Even though it’s summer, the mountain peaks are covered with the stuff.
   New Zealand is 990 miles long and a maximum of 250 miles wide. It consists of the large South Island, where we are, a smaller North Island and many small islands. The highest peak is Mt. Cook at 12,316 feet. The Southern Alps divide the length of the South Island.
   Three other tour members and I drove from Christchurch on the eastern coast to Franz Josef on the western coast. The Franz Josef Glacier was named after Emperor Franz Joseph I of Austria by German explorer Julius von Haast in 1865.
   We left Christchurch in our rented Toyota Previa van at 10:30 a.m., crossed Arthur’s Pass and arrived in Franz Josef at 6:30 p.m. In between, we stopped for two hours for hiking and lunch.
   Arthur’s Pass, the highest in New Zealand at 2,425 feet, was named after Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson, who in 1864 was assigned to find the best way to cross the alps.
   The eastern side of Arthur’s Pass National Park is characterized by wide, rock-filled river beds and vast beech forests. The western side, where wet weather is more common, has deeply gorged rivers flowing through dense rainforest.
   After checking in at the luxurious, rustic Westwood Lodge, we stuffed ourselves at the Alice May Bar & Restaurant, returned to the hotel and went to bed.
   It has been a long but enjoyable day, and Saturday promises to be even better. Stay tuned.  
   Australian Open – Mackenzie McDonald and Krista Hardebeck, both unseeded, lost in the junior singles semifinals at the Australian Open in Melbourne.
   McDonald, from Piedmont (near Oakland), fell to unseeded Filip Peliwo of Canada 6-4, 6-4, and the Stanford-bound Hardebeck, from Santa Ana in the Los Angeles area, succumbed to 14th-seeded Taylor Townsend of Stockbridge, Ga., 7-6 (3), 6-4.

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