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New Zealand

On the Road Again

Sunday 22nd November 2015

sunny 18 °C

I am becoming acutely aware of how near we are to the end of our travels and how few days we have left in New Zealand. Apart from one night near Christchurch airport, Lake Coleridge where we are going today is our penultimate destination. The journey was going to take us just under three hours and having said goodbye to Ban we were soon on our way. Once out of the Town we headed south to Fairlie and then through Burke's Pass skirting round the mountains that lie to the east of Tekapo.


Once we reached the town of Geraldine we were ready for a break and so we stopped at a farm shop and cafe just out of the town for coffee. It had some great supplies in the shop but as we were having meals provided at the bed and breakfast in Lake Constance we didn't need to get any groceries. The road then turned northeastwards until we reached the southern slopes of Mount Hutt,


the south islands premier skiing resort. As we had some time to spare we drove off the main highway to try to have a closer look at the mountain but the road quickly turned to gravel and so we turned round and went back. I understand that access to the mountain is problematic in the winter earning the mountain the nickname of Mount Shutt. By this time we were were approaching the Rakaia River and gorge of the same name. There are two bridges that span the river and we stopped for a short while to look at the view.


The second of the bridges looked quite old and was undergoing some much needed repairs. There was a very steep winding gravel road that went off the the left just after the bridge but instead we continued straight on for a few more miles before taking the easier Lake Coleridge Road. About half way up to where we were going to be staying there is a golf course and hotel called the Terrance Downs Resort that I had looked at when doing our bookings but had rejected for the cheaper and more secluded Lake Constance Lodge. We decided to stop off en-route and have a cup of tea before driving the final few miles to the Lodge. Once we arrived we met our very nice hosts Dean and Toni and Dean showed us around and gave us a choice of rooms. Once we had settled in a had a cup of tea and slice of cake made by Toni, we went off to explore. The Lodge was the single men's quarters for the hydro electric power station just a few yards away. This was completed in 1914 and was built to generate electricity for Christchurch. It is powered by a number of intakes from Lake Coleridge and the water then discharges into the Rakaia River. It was fascinating snooping around and seeing the huge intake pipes coming down the hillside and then exploring the wide braided river.


The Lodge still has the feel of a hostel whilst having the creature comforts of a nice bed and breakfast. There is a lot of information on the walls about the building's past and Dean and Toni have also introduced lots of extras to appeal to the tourist and corporate markets such as pitch and putt golf and a hot tub (neither of which we ended up using). Once we had finished exploring we had just enough time to go and freshen up before a great meal of lamb shanks followed by a panna cotta all prepared by Toni.

Posted by Gill's Travels 20:49 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Getting Some Fresh Air into the Lungs

Saturday 21st November 2015

semi-overcast 17 °C

Having had such a wet and windy day yesterday we really wanted to make the most of today. Rather than just walk around the lake we drove up Godley Peaks Road which runs to the west of Mount St John with its observatories and eventually leads to the foothills of the Southern Alps. We drove to the limit of the tarmac before turning left and driving on the unsealed lupin edged road past Lake McGregor


and on to the much larger Lake Alexandrina. It wasn't that easy to get to the lake edge as both had camping grounds between the road and the water, but I was able to get quite near and take a couple of photographs. There was a small stream flowing into Lake Alexandrina and there were a couple of black swans there with very young cygnets over which they were being quite protective.


I decided to leave them in peace and I got back in the car and we drove back down the road and parked up at the point that signals the start of the walk we had driven up here to do. It was a little bit confusing as to the way we were supposed to go. We had also seen on the notice board that the footpath is closed in November due to it being the lambing season, but there were no animals in sight and we reasoned that if it was really closed then there would also be signs on the gates, which there weren't. Anyway we hadn't driven there in order to be sent back and so we carried on. Initially the footpath went across open grazing land before it split creating the loop we would return on. The was then a bit of a climb to the top of the peninsula from where we had a great view, while being pretty windy.


This seemed like a good place to take a some photographs as there were great views back down the lake towards Tekapo, across to Motuariki Island and Mount Dobson beyond and also up the lake towards the Southern Alps.


Once we had admired the view we started to make the steep descent down towards the lake shore. This was quite tough and I ended up zigzagging my way down as I really didn't want to fall. Eventually we reached near the lake side and we were walking through gorse and birch trees. It wasn't long before the footpath started to go back up the hillside, although fortunately it wasn't as steep going up as it had been coming down. As we got back onto the relatively flat pasture land there were a large flock of sheep that hadn't been there previously. There were some quite young lambs but I don't think we caused them any stress and we felt reassured by the fact that we had seen several other walkers.


It wasn't long before we were back at the car and once there we made our way up the side road to the Mount John Observatory. As we climbed up the hill the views got more and more stunning, although once we went to get out of the car we realised that the height had also bought strong winds with it. Our hosts Kaori and Ban had given us a $30 voucher to spend in the cafe and as it was gone lunchtime we were feeling pretty hungry. Just as we got there we were asked if we would like to go on a free tour of the observatories (I think this was because they had someone new to the job and she needed some people to practice on). It was really interesting being shown round, but I am not going to try and pass on the technical stuff partly because I didn't understand it all and also because what I did I am now struggling to remember. What did stick with me is the way in which astronomers working in the southern hemisphere seem to work completely independently of those in the northern hemisphere and visa versa. I get that they are looking at a different part of the sky but I still thought they would share more than they seem to on things like methodology.


Once we had finished our mini tour we went and had a very late lunch making good use of the voucher we had been given. We then tried to defy the wind and take some photos of the amazing view of the peninsular where we walked this morning, as well as the lake, mountains and the town of Tekapo.


From the top of Mount St John we could also see over to Mount Cook although the mountains in that direction were sitting amongst a lot of low cloud. To finish the day of we had decided to use the second half of our two day ticket for the Tekapo Pools. As we were driving there we passed a part of the lake beach that not only had lots of lupins but also a mass of yellow/ orange Californian Poppies.


I got out of the car to take some photographs before we drove the rest of the way to the pools. We had another great soak, staying in the water for another couple of hours. It was a lovely way to relax after our walk, and a great way to end the day.

Posted by Gill's Travels 20:22 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

What to do on a Wet and Windy Day in Tekapo

Friday 20th November 2015

all seasons in one day 16 °C

The wind continued to howl round the house, shaking in on its metal stilts all night. It made it a bit hard to sleep and rather disappointingly we woke up to not just wind but torrential rain.


Sometimes you just have to let the weather dictate what you do or don't do and this was one of those occasions. So we had a bit if a lie in and then a leisurely breakfast. We just did our own thing all morning, a chance for me to catch up on my blog and read, whilst Nigel listened to his radio. We had lunch and just as we thought the weather was improving the wind picked up again. Fortunately by late afternoon the wet weather was replaced by sun


and we took advantage of this by dashing out to the hot pools that are by the lake just outside of town. They weren't quite as luxurious as the ones at Franz Josef but they made a great place to go. There are three pools heated to 36, 38 and 40 degrees respectively. It was great to just relax and feel the sun on our faces after such a grotty day. We stayed in the pools for a couple of hours and so when we got out we were a bit wrinkly but pretty relaxed. We got a take away on the way home (a bit grotty, but the exception rather than the rule) and relaxed by watching the sun go down over the hills.


Posted by Gill's Travels 20:07 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

From One Beautiful Lake to Another

Thursday 19th November 2015

sunny 16 °C

Today is the day that we leave the beauty of Mount Cook for Lake Tekapo, famous for its blue lake, lupins and little church. The journey would take us no more than an hour and a half and we couldn't check in to our next accommodation before 2pm, so we were in no hurry to leave Mount Cook. The only hotel of any size in the village is called The Hermitage and I think the only reason it has been allowed to be on several floors is because the original hotel of the same name was built way back in 1884. The first Hermitage was in a slightly different location, nearer to the campsite where we started yesterday's walk. As work was being done to build a second hotel on the current site the first hotel was damaged beyond repair by two successive floods. The second hotel was finished and served visitors to the area for over forty years before being completely destroyed by fire. The current hotel maintains its link with mountaineering by being the home to the Sir Edmund Hilary Museum. This has exhibits relating to the general history of climbing in the area, including showing a film celebrating the 100th anniversary of Mount Cook being conquered by New Zealanders Tom Fyfe, John Michael Clarke and George Graham on Christmas Day 1894. They also have a 3D cinema where we watched a film that showed views of the mountains from an animated Kea (alpine parrot). The film flitted a bit from one scene to anther which was a bit frustrating but it showed some amazing footage of the precariousness of a lot of mountaineering. Once we had finished in the museum we went and had a coffee in the hotel cafe and admired the statue of Hilary looking towards his beloved Mount Cook.


The mountain had quite a lot of cloud swirling around it at lower levels but it's peak was visible as if to give us one more view of it before we left the valley. We also had a great view of Mount Sefton and having seen a small avalanche when we were on our walk yesterday, and the way in which the snow seemed to be barely hanging onto the peak, it looked like a disaster waiting to happen. By the time we had finished our coffee it was nearing 1pm and about time we got on our way.

The first part of our journey took us back down past Lake Pukaki, looking every bit as turquoise as it did the day we arrived. We stopped briefly so I could take a couple more photographs.


I also took a few out of the car when we turned across the bottom end of the lake, from where it looked a completely different colour, but the views of Mount Cook just as impressive. We then drove south of the hills flanking the eastern shore of the lake before turning north east across a much flatter plain before reaching the hills surrounding Lake Tekapo.


The water looked a lovely turquoise although the degree if cloud meant that from the direction we approached it perhaps wasn't quite as dramatic as I was expecting. We found our accommodation and let ourselves in as per the instructions from our Japanese hosts. We settled in and admired the view from the apartment. We were expecting them to drop by late afternoon as their accommodation is just below ours but by 6pm we still hadn't seen them so we decided to go down by the lake in the hope of seeing the lupins that we knew should have been in flower at that time of year. They scenery certainly didn't disappoint, the flowers filled the shoreline and the colour of the lake from the shore was every bit as dramatic as I hoped it would be.


I spent quite a bit of time taking photographs of the flowers, the lake and the Church of the Good Shepherd nearby. There were lots of other people taking photographs including a couple of Asian brides standing shivering in the chill wind whilst posing with their grooms for hundreds of photographs. I felt quite sorry for them, and taking photographs without any people in was quite a challenge. In the end I gave up and took a sneaky picture of the bride and groom.


Once I had finished we went and got some groceries, and just before dinner our hosts popped round and filled us in on the key things we needed to know and we settled our bill. That evening the wind really got up and we went to bed with the wind howling round the building.

Posted by Gill's Travels 19:52 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

Art in Nature

Wednesday 18th November 2015

sunny 18 °C

When we first woke up this morning there was a fair bit of cloud over the mountain tops but this very quickly cleared giving us great views of Mount Sefton and up towards the Hooker Valley. After breakfast we made up a packed lunch and then we got on our way. Most people doing the walk drive as far as the White Horse Hill Camping Ground, which is what we did. We walked past a couple of landmarks; the alpine memorial and a place called Freda's Rock (named after the first woman to climb Mount Cook, Freda du Faur). From there we walked gently up hill and then down a number of steps to the swing bridge that made our first crossing of the Hooker River.


From the bridge there are great views up the river and into Mueller Lake which is fed from a glacier of the same name as well as from Hooker Lake which was our final destination. From there it was a short walk until we reached a point from where we could look up the valley to Mount Cook. It was very clear without a cloud in the sky.


The gravel path continued up and down a bit, over old moraine ridges and humps until, we reached the second swing bridge at Hooker Bluff.


From here we saw lots of the large Mount Cook buttercups which are about three inches in diameter. The valley opens out a bit from here and there is a lot of tussock grass. We continued on until we reached a stream with a nearby shelter and some primitive looking toilets.


From there a long boardwalk evens out the terrain until we arrived at the final swing bridge, after which we started to gently climb again as we walked over moraine heaps. There were even more clumps of white buttercups here and quite a sense of anticipation as I knew that we were getting near the edge of the lake all the time. Finally we went between two large rocks and over the lip of the moraine and then had a full view of Hooker Lake.


There were some large picnic tables at the main viewpoint and lots of people were sitting there admiring the view while others were eating picnics. We joined them and sat and ate our lunch with great views of the milky blue glacial waters and across to the snout of the Hooker Glacier. We could see down to the shore of the lake where there were some lumps of glacial ice and that is where we went once we had finished eating. The lake looked beautiful from down on the rocky beach and there was a stark contrast between the main colour of the lake and the green at the waters edge. It was quite busy when we got there as there was a group of American schoolchildren but when they left it unsurprisingly got a little more peaceful! We went to where we could get a better view of the smallish lumps of ice that had previously broken off the snout of the glacier and floated down the lake.


One of them looked like a piece of modern art, reminding me a bit of Salvador Dali's Mae West Lips Sofa. We also walked a little further round the beach and across some small rocks to see where the Hooker Rives flows out of the lake. As we walked back along the shore line I went and had a look at some smaller pieces of ice, fragile and sparkling like jewels in the milky waters of the lake.


We spent a little more time up at the viewpoint overlooking the lake where we had previously eaten our lunch before starting to retrace our steps and as we walked we had glimpses back through the entrance to the valley and the turquoise blue of Lake Pukaki beyond. We crossed back over the two lower swing bridges and there were clumps of a strange spiny yellowy coloured flower that I later found out are for some reason called Spiny Spaniards.


By the time we got back to the car we had been out for the best part of five hours. The track walking had taken us almost exactly the three hours they said it would, but we had taken a number of small diversions and had also spent quite a lot of time on the lakeside beach. Nigel had set the GPS on his phone which had measured the distance we had walked which totalled nearly seven and a half miles which must be the furthest I have walked by far since breaking my ankle last year. When we got back to the motel we just relaxed for a while and looked back at our photos before I cooked us a risotto for supper.

Posted by Gill's Travels 19:22 Archived in New Zealand Comments (0)

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