The Southern Alps. Breathtaking
Trip Start Nov 05, 2002
69Trip End Aug 13, 2003
Heading out over the Canterbury Plains we left Christchurch. Destination? Lake Tekapo, in the heart of New Zealand's South Island, a beautiful turquoise highland lake surrounded by a vast basin of golden tussock and the spectacular Southern Alps, a mountain range that separates the east and west coast of the South Island and is by far the dominant feature of the island. This Highland lake and settlement (at 710 metres/2300 feet) is in the heart of the Mackenzie District. The name Tekapo derives from Maori words 'Taka' (sleeping mat) and 'Po' (night). Finely ground rock in the glacial melted waters give Lake Tekapo its beautifully unique turquoise colour. The surrounding mountains and turquoise lake make a spectacular backdrop for the 'Church of the Good Shepherd', a small church sitting on the lake.
It was here we got our first look, up close and personal, of the breathtaking New Zealand landscape and scenery. I was no different to everyone else who has seen the Lord Of The Rings films and thus had a picture in my minds eye of the landscape to be expected. But even that does this place an injustice. Maybe Lake Tekapo was the perfect place to go to experience this scenery so soon after getting to the country or maybe the whole country offers is sort of vista? After only a few days into our New Zealand adventure that remains to be seen. But boy, ohh boy! Amazing. Feast your eyes on the Lake Tekapo pictures on this entry to get an appreciation of what I'm talking about. We arrived in Tekapo, a real one horse town with a splattering of shops and services, and dumped our bags in the local hostel. Although near midday the hostel wouldn't be opening until 4pm (an indication of how sleepy Tekapo is) so we headed out of town to do the Mt John walk, a 2-3 hour hike to a nearby hill/mountain, Mount John. Setting out the weather wasn't great; it was overcast and treating to rain. However half-way into the walk the clouds seemed to disappear and the conditions cleared. On the walk we witnessed some of the most unbelievable and breathtaking scenery I have ever experienced and sitting on the top of Mt John in the mid afternoon sunshine and the crisp, clean air (something Lake Tekapo has a reputation for) and looking down over Lake Tekapo will be something I won't forget for a long, long time. We spent a quite night in the hostel in Tekapo, cooking dinner and having a few VB's (much to the disgust of the New Zealander who sold them to me in the local shop!).
From Lake Tekapo we continued south passing Lake Pukaki, another gorgeous turquoise highland lake, on route to Mount Cook village, a small alpine village in the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Festooned by the silent splendour of the Southern Alps, Mount Cook Village is within arms reach of the majestic Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand's highest peak. Past the tussock downs of the Mackenzie Country and deep into towering mountainous terrain, this is the very heart and soul of a World Heritage and National Park wilderness playground. Ice, snow, hidden valleys, lakes and glaciers. It has it all.
It's really cool to be here now as it's approaching the 50th anniversary of Edmund Hillary (a New Zealander) climbing Mt Everest. It was on Mount Cook and the surrounding peaks that he initially got his inspiration to become a climber and practiced for his attempts on Everest. And why wouldn't you with this sort of scenery?
We arrived in the early afternoon yesterday and as the weather was fine (very similar to the day previous in Lake Tekapo) we decided to do the 4 hour round-trip walk up the Hooker Valley, a mountain valley that leads to a glacier lake at the base of Mount Cook itself. Seemingly days with good weather and visibility of the mountain are somewhat rare this time of year so we decided not to chance waiting until the following day to do the walk (an excellent decision as it turned out!). The walk was amazing and needless to say the mountain is spectacular. We got great shots of the Hooker valley, nearby glaciers and of course Mount Cook itself. Another unforgettable experience. Wowwww...
Well that was yesterday and this is today! We awoke to find the weather had turned; it is very overcast and raining heavily. Very heavily. What a great move to do the Hooker Valley walk yesterday. We're presently in a beautiful, cosy YHA hostel. This one is a large log cabin hostel which really enhances the experience of being surrounded by this sort of alpine slender. It's just a pity the sauna is broken at present! Ummmm. That would be nice. No offence but I'd rather be in there than sitting here typing this! I'm sure you all understand?!
Anyway, with not much to do today we're hanging around the hostel watching DVD's (Good Morning Vietnam is on as I type) and waiting for our mid afternoon bus south the Queenstown, the adrenaline junkie capital of New Zealand.
Make sure you follow us there.
Until next time.
Dave and B