Mount Cook to Dunedin

Mount Cook in the early morning light with cloud being formed as air rises to pass over the summit
The picture below is of The Hermitage. This luxury resort could be thought to be “out of place” in the wilderness that is Mount Cook. However, all other development is strictly controlled and because of that fact – it sort of works!

We had breakfast in the hotel having had a pleasant evening in our chalet apartment. We then set off in the car to take in a visit to the Tasman Glacier Lake. This lake sitting behind the glaciers’ terminal moraine was seen at its most moody and gloomy best. We walked up past the Blue Lakes (which weren’t blue as the sun wasn’t shining) and we were not tempted to take a dip. Once at the top of the moraine we could see the full set of lateral and recessional moraines of the Tasman Glacier as well as a couple of “icebergs” – ice that detached itself from the snout of the glacier further up the valley. Some photographs (below) sort of give you the picture.

The outwash plain below the Tasman Glacier with its braided streams
As you may have guessed this was just heaven to the physical geographer in me. Although I’d seen the Athabasca Glacier in Canada, I’d not see anything quite as impressive as Mount Cook and the Tasman Glacier – but more was to come later!

We left Mount Cook and returned down the side of Lake Puakiki heading for Oamaru, but first there was Twizel – the town that refused to die. This town was built solely to service the massive hydro-electric work that was undertaken in the period from 1968 – 1984. It was scheduled to be closed, abandoned then, but the residents thought otherwise and have survived through servicing the tourist trade. We stopped here for a cup of coffee and then pressed on taking in the Maraewhenua Maori rock paintings (below) and the Elephant Rocks – used in the filming of Narnia as Aslan’s Camp (right).

We were now about to enter Oamaru which was one of the strangest experiences (for me) of the trip and yet also one of the most profitable. Let’s just say that parts of the town are in need of some TLC. The old heart of the town has been restored for the tourist trade, but the seafront nearby is in desperate need of renovation.

But in the old town there is a plethora of arts, crafts and book shops. We really enjoyed browsing and I came away with some books and a painting which I bought from an art gallery – I never expected that, but when I saw it, I just had to have it. Didn’t think about how I was going to get it home … I just had to have it.

The picture is of a North Island creek and you can take a peek at it here.

Leaving Oamaru by the coast road and having seen the boulders at Moeraki – more about them here – and thinking we ought to have something to eat, we dropped down into Moeraki to sample the food at Fleur’s Place … but unfortunately it was closed. That meant that we needed to press on with a little more speed to reach Dunedin where we checked into “Motel on York”. Another light meal in the motel room, a short walk into the town centre – looking for cathedral steps (more about that later too) and we turned in, it had been a long day!

The pictures from the day (including the ones above are on Google+ Photos.

More photogenic and very healthy looking cows

Finally a postcard picture of the Moeraki Boulders – a really strange phenomenon

NZ – Mount Cook to Dunedin at EveryTrail

From Christchurch to Mount Cook

We arrived in Christchurch on the 28th January in the early afternoon, having had a relatively uneventful trip on an Air New Zealand flight from Melbourne. The highpoint was the safety video which had the NZ rugby team plus Graham Henry holding our attention in a humorous way whilst getting the serious messages over. It was certainly a novel way of getting attention.

After picking up the hire car – a Hyundai we drove into Christchurch and checked into our hotel – The Latimer off Worcester Street – and then spent the late afternoon familiarising ourselves with the geography of the central area by taking a tram ride. The damage caused by the earthquakes in September 2010 and at Christmas 2010 was evident with many of the buildings being supported. That evening we went to Sticky Fingers on Oxford Terrace where I had awesome Lamb.

The next day we set off reasonably early having arranged for a return visit at the end of the holiday – having been so pleased with the room. We had a long drive ahead of us as we wanted to take it easy but still get to Aoraki Mount Cook early enough to do a bit of walking and “looking around” before nightfall. The route we took is shown on the trail below. We stopped in the Bakery in Darfield to have a coffee (I had a meat pie too) and then went next door to the supermarket to stock up for the trip ahead. We found some things to be cheaper than at home, some a little more expensive, but overall much cheaper than Australia. The trials and tribulations of exchange rates if you live in the UK (or NZ, I suspect).

The route than took us along the eastern foothills of the Southern Alps with spectacular scenery on our right and with lush, rich pasture on either side of us. We noticed the field boundaries were marked with tall evergreen trees – no doubt to provide wind-breaks. The effect however was rather strange as it appeared that they were giant hedges around the fields.

We stopped at the Rakaia Gorge and were impressed by the huge river cliffs where the river had cut into the glacial deposits and the vast plain of braided streams and then pressed on to xx where we had a picnic lunch and chatted with a couple (originally from yy) who had emigrated to NZ in the 1960’s.

The panoramic view of the Surrey Hills and the rich agricultural land in front of it from the bluff we were viewing them from was truly breathtaking.

Then it was on to Geraldine, where we had the briefest of stops, before heading on to Fairlie and Lake Tekapo which is famous for the Church of the Good Shepherd (built in 1935) which is a favourite wedding location – a fact we observed for ourselves. The briefest of strolls beside the lake near the church and it was back in the car and off to Lake Pukaki where we stopped at the Information Centre. It was here that we got our first real sight of Mount Cook, at the head of the turquoise blue lake. The rest of the drive was punctuated by quite a few stops as I attempted to get the “perfect picture“.

We had booked into a cabin at The Hermitage Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Village. The room was well organised and functional, unfortunately it didn’t have a view but the location was amazing. Before we ate that evening we walked up to the foot of Mount Cook to the point where the Mueller Glacier (coming in from the left) joins the Hooker Glacier at its snout. The lateral moraine of the Mueller Glacier almost completely blocking the valley of the Hooker River. It was a lovely walk, the sun kept out until it just touched the very peak of Mount Cook as it set in the west. A wonderful end to a lovely day.


Mount Bruce with Mount Cook, the Tasman Valley and Lake Pukaki

NZ – Christchurch to Mount Cook at EveryTrail

Pictures for this day are to be found on Google+ photos (Picasaweb), they’re marked on the trail above, and you can watch them in the video slideshare below.

NZ – Christchurch to Mount Cook at EveryTrail