New Zealand Day 22 – Aoraki/Mt Cook

What a glorious day!

It was cloudy when we woke but most of the cloud soon burned off and we discovered that last night’s rain had fallen on the higher ground as snow. All the hills and mountains were freshly dusted white.

Lake Tekapo was looking gorgeous; turquoise surrounded by snowy white peaks. We decided to drive up to Mt Cook, about an hour away. We diverted along one of the hydro canals and past the Mt Cook Salmon farm. Stephen ducked in for a quick look and decided to stop there to buy some on the way back.

The Mt Cook turnoff is back towards Twizel, we were retracing the path that we took the other day when we first came to Lake Tekapo. We once again stopped at Lake Pukaki. The view today was so very different. Today we could see the mountains behind the gorgeously blue lake. The views all day really were fantastic. Mt Cook sits amongst the other peaks of the Southern Alps at the northern end of Lake Pukaki, all snow-capped and looking brilliant in the sunshine with the blue sky and the blue lake.

We arrived at Mt Cook Village and had a look in the Dept. of Conservation Info centre, then had lunch at the ‘Old Mountaineer’s Café’. The owners of this café fought the DOC for ten years to be allowed to build and open the business in Mt. Cook village; until they did so the DOC controlled the only accommodation and eateries. The owners have years of experience as mountaineering guides and have written a book about their experiences and the battle to build and open the café. I know I’m going to regret not buying the book!

Anyway, lunch was delicious (if expensive – but what isn’t around here?) and the views are incredible. Mt. Cook is so majestic.  We couldn’t help commenting over and over on just how beautiful it looks.

After lunch we drove out through the Tasman Valley and walked up to the viewpoint for the Tasman Glacier. It’s not as pretty as the other glaciers we’ve seen, it’s covered in rubble left as the glacier has melted from the top down, but awesome never-the-less. It’s New Zealand’s longest glacier and you can only see a comparatively small part of it. This glacier ends in a lake – Lake Tasman – that has icebergs floating in it; great chunks of ice that have broken off the end of the glacier.

There are several other glaciers up there amongst the snowy peaks and valleys. Everything looks stunning! But you can’t just hang around and gaze at snowy peaks, blue lakes and sunshine. If nothing else, you’d soon get very cold! We headed back and stopped at the salmon farm again on the way home.

After tea at the Japanese restaurant again we went and had a look at the historic little stone Church of the Good Shepherd and the nearby statue of the Border Collie sheep dog, without which the Mackenzie District could never have been successfully farmed.

It’s a beautiful evening, with the mountains all still visible as the sun sets, but once again not a good night for star-gazing due to high cloud.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Sheep being moved on the Road to Mt Cook

Sheep being moved on the Road to Mt Cook

Aoraki/Mt Cook

Aoraki/Mt Cook

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook Village

Mt Cook Village

Mt Cook

Mt Cook

Mt Cook

Mt Cook

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Glacier Walk

Glacier Walk

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Glacier Walk View

Glacier Walk View

Tasman Glacier

Tasman Glacier

Lake Tasman

Lake Tasman

Tasman Glacier

Tasman Glacier

Top End of Lake Pukaki

Top End of Lake Pukaki

Top End of Lake Pukaki

Top End of Lake Pukaki

Icebergs in Lake Tasman

Icebergs in Lake Tasman

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Mt Cook Salmon Farm

Mt Cook Salmon Farm

Church of the Good Shepherd

Church of the Good Shepherd

Sheepdog Monument

Sheepdog Monument

View from Bedroom Window Highview

View from Bedroom Window Highview

New Zealand Day 20 – Oamaru to Lake Tekapo

We woke to rain this morning. According to the map we only had about 2 ½ hours of driving so the light but steady rain wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. We decided to drive up along the Vanished World Trail (which we actually were driving along for part of yesterday) through the Waitaki Valley.

We stopped to walk through a farmer’s field to have a look at some whale fossils near a place called Elephant Rocks. These are hugs limestone boulders just rising out of the ground. There’s limestone everywhere here just under the surface. All of the historic buildings and many of the newer ones have been built out of it. As you drive through the area you see limestone cliffs all around. Part of the movie The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was filmed at Elephant Rocks in the Anatini Fossil Valley. It was the site of Aslan’s camp. There’s another movie being filmed there are the moment – Kingdom Come. You can see the construction of a village from the road. Apparently they’ve run out of money though and are having trouble getting more funding; I can’t remember how much it has cost so far but I’m sure it was over $100million, so filming has stopped and may not start again.

The Vanished World Trail included the Fossil Museum at Duntroon. It has a small but interesting collection of fossils; several of them were of ancient and extinct shark toothed dolphins.

There were some Maori rock paintings on some of the limestone along the way. Not only was the limestone (and therefore the art) pretty weatherworn, but there was quite a bit of graffiti as well, and it was a bit hard to tell what was real and what wasn’t. It was quite disappointing so we didn’t bother stopping at the second lot of rock art that we passed.

We went through the little town of Kurow and stopped at the winery there. Stephen tasted a few wines and bought a Pinot Noir. This is probably the only winery that we’ll stop at for our whole trip. From Kurow we took the scenic drive around Lake Aviemore. This road starts off by crossing the Aviemore Dam then continues around the edge of the lake and ends by crossing the Benmore Dam and then rejoining  the highway. The rain continued, along with the low cloud, so we couldn’t really see how pretty the lake was, but we did get a hint if the brilliant blue colour that the lakes in this region are known for. These dams and lakes are all part of the hydro-electric power production that supplies much of the south island with power.

We stopped for lunch at Omarama.  The scenery here is supposed to be fabulous but it was still raining and the clouds were low. We could see the nearby hills through the haze, but nothing else. There are a few tourist places along the highway; it’s obviously a popular stopping place for tourist buses. There’s a demo shearing shed where you can also see the sheep dogs working but it certainly wasn’t the weather for that. Omarama is also known for its world-class gliding and it looked like there was a big gliding meet on.  The glider field was lined with a long row of gliders and the attached campground was lined with campervans.

As we left Omarama we came across another beautiful field of pink and purple lupins.  When we’ve been close to the sea there have been yellow lupins growing wild everywhere. At high altitude there have been hardly any of the yellows but shades from pink through red and pale blue through purple.

After Twizel we passed the turnoff to Mount Cook (the highest mountain in Australasia) and then passed Lake Pukaki. There’s a lookout on the edge of this lake that’s famous for its views of Mt Cook with the turquoise lake in the foreground. We couldn’t have even said that there were any mountains there, but while the lake didn’t look ultra-blue we could see that it was a beautiful colour.

The rain continued as we arrived at Lake Tekapo. We drove past the most brilliantly blue lake of them all (not that we could see just how blue it can really be) and up the hill to the apartment we’ll be staying in for 4 nights. It’s a really nice place with great views of the lake and of the surrounding Southern Alps (or would have if the skies were clear) from the living area and from the balcony and the bedroom. Lake Tekapo is a small village that’s becoming more trendy and is all about tourism. We had a quick look at the shops and had tea at a fabulous Japanese restaurant. There seem to be a lot of Japanese here, there were Japanese working in all of the shops, and a large Japanese tour group came into the restaurant while we were there.

Hopefully the sun will shine tomorrow otherwise we’ll be exploring in the rain!

Leaving the Criterion Hotel Oamaru

Leaving the Criterion Hotel Oamaru

Elephant Rocks

Elephant Rocks

Whale Fossil

Whale Fossil

Anatini Fossil Valley - Location of Filming of Aslan's Camp

Anatini Fossil Valley - Location of Filming of Aslan's Camp

Maerewhenua Rock Art

Maerewhenua Rock Art

Extinct Shark Toothed Dolphin Fossil

Extinct Shark Toothed Dolphin Fossil

Kurow Winery

Kurow Winery

Lake Aviemore

Lake Aviemore

Lupin Fields by the Ahuriri River

Lupin Fields by the Ahuriri River

Lupin Fields by the Ahuriri River

Lupin Fields by the Ahuriri River

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Highview - Our Accommodation at Lake Tekapo

Highview - Our Accommodation at Lake Tekapo

View from the Balcony

View from the Balcony

View through the Lounge Window

View through the Lounge Window