New Zealand 15 – The Otago Peninsula

It was necessary to rearrange some of the activities for this last couple of days because John and Chris had made changes to their return to the UK. The Coronavirus seemed to be gathering pace across the world, and John felt he needed to get back sooner, and via a safer route, in order to manage his business. As a result, I had arranged for them to enjoy the albatross experience a day earlier.

We arrived at our house via a very steep drive. It was perched high, overlooking the harbour inlet leading to Dunedin. As with so many of our houses, we had super views from the house and the deck. It wasn’t entirely suitable, as Chrissie’s room was in a wooden annex in the garden, ideal for a couple of teenagers, but not for a lady of style. Nevertheless, she was prepared to put up with sleeping in a shed!

While John and Chris enjoyed the albatross experience, I organised fish and chips for everybody so that we would be ready to go back to the Albatross Centre, later in the evening, to watch the Little Blue Penguins coming ashore after a day’s fishing. The fish and chip shop is run by a very amiable chap with a good sense of humour. This can be seen by the various notices he has around the place.

We arrived at the centre just as the sun was setting. By the time we had had the introductory talk and we were ready to go out on to the viewing platform is was dark. The viewing platform is just above the beach where the penguins land. They tend to arrive in small rafts, which is as a group, plopping on to the beach as a wave breaks. Having landed they tend to stand there and survey the scene to make sure it is safe. Behind us the chicks are beginning to make a noise from their burrows, in anticipation of their parents feeding them. But the Little Blue Penguins do not seem to be in a great hurry. They take time to shake themselves, preen their feathers a little, gradually making their way into to dunes.

The thing that is so striking about them is their size. They are so little, standing less than a foot tall. Creatures that are so sleek and quick in the sea look ungainly as they waddle up the beach, but they are beautiful.

Behind us the chicks are now getting a little impatient and as well as making a noise, they come out of their burrows to see where their parents are. Little balls of fluff waddle around the edge of their burrow and scrabble their way back in as they see their parents arriving.

While Chris and John spent the morning packing, Angela, Chrissie and I went over to the other side of the peninsula to Allen’s Bay, a beautiful beach frequented by sea lions. It was a perfect morning with not a breath of wind. The reflection of the hills in the waters of the lagoon were perfect.

Whenever I have been to this beach before I have only seen mothers and pups. The pups usually hide in the sand dunes, waiting for their mothers to return from fishing trips. It is best not to go rooting around in the dunes as it is very easy to disturb the pups, but, also, it would be easy to come across an adult that would not be quite so cute.

As soon as we emerged on to the beach we were in luck. A large bull sea lion had just emerged from the sea and was slowly making its way up the beach. He was in no hurry but was content to roll around on the sand. We always maintained a safe distance, perhaps 10m between us. That way it does not cause alarm. However, when that 10m is further up the beach, possibly close to the direction the sea lion wants to go, it can cause some alarm. In this instance the alarm was to Chrissie and me who decided to move out of the way as our docile sea lion decided to briefly run up the beach, if you can call it running. I don’t think we would have been harmed but it is better not to find out.

As we walked along this most beautiful of beaches, we kept coming across lone sea lions relaxing on the sand, often wrapping themselves around some seaweed. They do know how to relax, waving the odd flipper in the air as they wallow in the warm, morning sunshine.

The most exciting experience of the morning was spotting a female emerging from the sea. To begin with she wallowed in the shallows, rolling from side to side. Standing up, she would waddle a little further up the beach, her body glistening in the sunshine. She had two noticeable and significant scars on her abdomen, which must have caused her some concern in the past. After a while she would lie down and stroke her face and chin on the sand, gradually extending it to a full body rub. Here the sand was firm so not much transferred to her wet skin. After a while she would waddle further up the beach, her skin shimmering in the light. Again, she would stop for more luxuriating on the sand. Eventually she would make it into the sand dunes where her pup would be waiting to be fed. Watching this was very special.

Leaving the sea lions, we returned to the house to pick up Chris and John and take them to the airport. I dropped Angela and Chrissie in Dunedin for a mooch, while I continued to Dunedin Airport. We had had a great adventure together and I really appreciated their company throughout. Not easy saying goodbye when you have shared so many experiences.

Back in Dunedin, I met up with Angela and Chrissie. I had arranged for us to go to the Yellow-Eyed Penguin Sanctuary. First we needed to pop back to the house. Panic! Chrissie could not find her pouch containing her passport, money, credit cards, everything that is essential when travelling. We searched high and low but there was no sign. The only conclusion I could come to was that Chris and John had mistakenly swept them up into their luggage. They had done their luggage sorting in the lounge where Chrissie had left her pouch. Text messages and phone messages ensued and eventually we learned that what we thought had happened, had happened. John arranged for Chrissie’s pouch to be left at a desk in Auckland Airport for Chrissie to pick up.

As a result, we were a little late arriving at the penguin sanctuary. The only penguins we saw were those in the hospital, hopefully recuperating sufficiently to be released again into the wild. Although we walked around the sanctuary, we saw no other penguins. I talked to our guide and referred her to the fact that when I first visited New Zealand, less than ten years ago, I saw so many Yellow-Eyed Penguins along the Catlin coast and the Otago Peninsula. Now they seem to be very scarce. In such a short time they have become an endangered species. Experts maintain that there will be no more Yellow-Eyed Penguins, other than any in captivity, in ten years time. That is devastating! They have become victims on so many fronts. They have been terrorised by tourists who see them as playthings. Because their nest are on the ground amongst bushes at the edge of beaches, they are too accessible so their usual nesting grounds are no longer safe. Global warming has meant that they have to go further out to sea to find their staple food. Their favourite food is blue cod, which has been over fished so it is harder for them to come by. They are solitary fishers, unlike the Little Blue Penguin, which fish in groups, so they have become vulnerable to predators on both land and sea. Their nests get raided by stoats and ferrets, dogs attack them on the beach and sharks, seals and sea lions eat them at sea. It is not easy being a Yellow-Eyed Penguin and it will be extremely sad when they disappear.

Our final visit of the day was to the Albatross Centre. The Otago Peninsula is the only mainland colony of albatross in the world. We were given an introductory talk on the life cycle and the way of life of an albatross. They are remarkable birds, spending so much time riding the thermals.

The talk over, we headed outside and up the hill to the hide overlooking the colony. There we saw adults sitting on their nests with a lone chick tucked safely underneath them. We saw youngsters squabbling and trying to assert themselves and, most strikingly, we saw these majestic birds gliding overhead and past us. They are an exceptional sight.

That was it. We had dinner that evening in the 1908 Cafe Restaurant. The next morning Angela and I dropped Chrissie off at Dunedin Airport. Another sad farewell. Then, with just two of us left, we drove up to Christchurch to drop off the hire car and catch our flight to Auckland. We spent a further three weeks in New Zealand with family while the Coronavirus took hold, and gripped the world. As we sit in lockdown back in the UK, and New Zealand has gone into its own lockdown, we can only reflect how lucky we were in seeing and doing all of the things we did. Everything has closed down and New Zealand, like the UK, and it is a very different place to the one we experienced just a short time ago. We can only hope that we get to grips with this pandemic, that the world, perhaps cautiously, returns to normal, and I can begin to consider New Zealand – The Best Bits 3.


New Zealand 14 – Invercargill and the Catlins

The day we left Manapouri was a mixture of sunshine and cloud. When the sun did shine, it cast a beautiful light on the trees and hills around the lake.

The south coast was a bit bleak. Gone were the golden, sandy beaches, to be replaced with grey shingle beaches.

Invercargill is not the most attractive of towns and does not have a great deal of interest, other than one shop, E. Hayes and Sons, a hardware shop. It has a huge floor area and there is anything and everything a budding builder, either professional or DIY enthusiast, could want. It is more than just a hardware shop. It is a museum, particularly of motorbikes, cars, bicycles and Burt Munro’s Fastest Indian.

Bert Munro, a 68 year old resident of Invercargill with a heart complaint and a shoestring budget, had the ambition to achieve the land speed record on a forty seven year old bike with makeshift tyres, no brakes and no chute. All the odds were stacked against him, but his determination and indomitable spirit saw him set a world land speed record of 205.67 mph. The story was immortalised in the film, The World’s fastest Indian, starring Anthony Hopkins. His bike is the star attraction and for those who want to feel what it was like, there is a replica bike you can sit on.

How did it come about? Storeowner Norman Hayes helped Burt get the materials he needed to modify the Indian. When Burt’s health deteriorated, Norman bought two of his bikes and all his parts to keep his motorcycling legacy in Southland. The store is now home to an ecclectic range of classic and vintage motorcycles, automobiles, engines, equipment and memorabilia which today makes up the E. Hayes Motorworks Collection.

Having drooled long enough, we headed out to Stirling Point in Bluff, the southern most tip of South Island. It was quite windy and the sea beyond the headland was choppy. We watched a fishing vessel rocking back and forth as it ploughed its way towards the harbour. Once past the headland it suddenly found smoother water.

At Stirling Point there is the obligatory finger post telling us that London was a mere 18,958km away, a further 929km away than we were at Reinga Point. In the hazy distance we could just make out Stewart Island, an island that needs to be on my next New Zealand itinerary. There is a good cafe at Stirling Point, called the Oyster Cove, overlooking the headland, which provided us with an excellent late lunch. Sea Food Chowder!!! The cafe was for sale, as were quite a few of the cafes we patronised on our journey. If we were able, they would all be very tempting, but we were seeing them at the prime time of year. I suspect, like tourist venues at home, they will have their lean times.

We had spent rather more time than I expected in Invercargill, so we felt the need to go directly to our accommodation at Papatowai, on the Catlins, without taking in any detours. The Catlins is a little visited area of New Zealand that boasts a dramatic coastline with long, sweeping beaches and rocky headlands, and tropical forests.

Our house for the night was tucked away at the end of a long grit road with beautiful views across the rolling hills and out towards the sea. It was a stunning house in a stunning location and my only regret was that we were only staying there one night and not using it as a base to explore the area in more detail. Perhaps next time.





Continuing up the coast we took time to visit a beach at Surat Bay. I knew that we would likely see sea lions lazing on the beach. What I wasn’t expecting was to see pairs together on the beach. I had previously only seen bulls on this beach, understanding that they are banished while the females look after the young. It is always a ‘pinch me’ moment when you see these wonderful creatures.

A little further along the coast we came to Nugget Point, a headland with a number of stacks off shore. It is a dramatic headland, particularly in a storm. Fortunately, the weather was quite placid, if not a little threatening.

Gradually we worked our way up the coast to Dunedin, but rather than going into the city, we diverted to the Otago Peninsula, our last destination on this tour of New Zealand.

New Zealand 13 – Manapouri

By now John, Chris and I should have been embarking upon the three day Routeburn Track walk while Angela and Chrissie went on an overnight cruise on Doubtful Sound. We had enquired if we could all go on the cruise but there wasn’t the room for us. As a result, we all decided to go to Manapouri and the three walkers would find something else to do while the others went on the cruise.

It’s a very easy journey from Queenstown to Te Anau with long stretches of straight road. As we left Queenstown, driving along the shore or Lake Wakatipu the clouds created wonderful patterns on the mountain sides and summits.

Te Anau is on the shore of Lake Te Anau and while we were there I called in to the office of the Doubtful Sound cruise to check the girls in and find out last minute instructions. I also discovered that they could take Chris as there would be room in the cabin for three. This would mean that John and I were free to find something exciting to do.

On the waterfront we noticed a float plane, so we enquired if we could go out the next day. Float planes are very weather dependent: they need smooth, flat water. The best thing we could do was to try in the morning.

In Manapouri we were staying in the comfortable but rather dated Manapouri Motor Lodge. It was ideally situated with views across the lake. It was while we were exploring Manapouri, and there isn’t a great deal there, that I realised, with a little help from Angela, that it was our 25th Wedding Anniversary. In my mind, I knew that we were not to be together for it, as I should have been walking the Routeburn Track. The change in itinerary had confused me into believing that it was the next day when Angela would be on Doubtful Sound and I would be elsewhere. We happened to be in the Real Journeys offices on the wharf, allowing me the opportunity to make a sly purchase of a postcard, a little blue penguin and a fridge magnet! How romantic is that?

That night we celebrated with some bubbly and a meal at the restaurant bar attached to the motor inn. The service was poor and somewhere between ordering our food and delivering instructions to the kitchen the order was lost.

The following morning, I delivered the girls to the wharf for their trip to Doubtful Sound that required them to take an hour long boat trip across Lake Manapouri, a winding bus trip over a pass and down to Doubtful Sound in order to meet up with their boat for the overnight trip.

Meanwhile, John and I went into Te Anau to see what the situation was regarding going up in a float plane. We knew before we got there that it wouldn’t be happening, the water was far too choppy. While we waited to see if it would improve we found a very good cafe, the Olive Tree, which served excellent eggs Benedict, coffee and plenty of free wifi for John to conduct his business.

Needless to say, the choppiness of the water did not improve. We had missed our opportunity. The next day the plane was going in for servicing. With that decision made, we headed out to the little airstrip at Manapouri where we hoped to get a flight. They were waiting for cloud over the fiords to clear but, should flights occur, they did have space for us. Unfortunately, they could not fit us into the same flight, so it was decided that John would go first on a flight the concentrated principally on Milford Sound while I took a later flight that flew over Doubtful Sound and on to Milford Sound, slightly longer and more expensive. By now, I didn’t care, I was hooked on these scenic flights.

When it came to my turn to fly I joined with two American couples. Fortunately I was able to sit in the co-pilot’s seat. The flight took us over Lake Manapouri and over the pass before we came across Doubtful Sound. There was still quite a lot of cloud about, particularly around the summits and ridges but where we wanted views of the sound it was generally clear. Far below I could see the boat that the girls were on but we were far too high for them to realise, even if they saw me. There was a real sense of wonder and awe in flying over the fiords. You had a feeling that you were looking down on a land never trodden on. The slopes rising out of the fiords were so steep and so forested, it seemed impenetrable.

Towards the mouth of the sound the skies were much clearer but we had come to see the sounds in their entirety, so as we headed north, weaving over and around ridges, and cloud, we saw sound after sound. At one point I told the pilot that I was glad he knew where he was going. There were so many ridges and fiords that I felt quite disorientated. Each fiord we came across I was sure it was going to be Milford Sound but it was much further than I had anticipated. There was no conversation from any of my fellow passengers and the two women sitting in the back spent their whole time knitting!


From Doubtful Sound we flew over Bradshaw Sound, Nancy Sound, Charles Sound, Caswell Sound, George Sound, Bligh Sound and Sutherland Sound before reaching Milford Sound. Most of the sounds were named after some of the early seafarers who explored the fiords, finding most of them impenetrable once they reached the end. All the time we were looking down there were also fabulous ridges and mountains to look upon at our flying level. There was just so much to see, so much to take in.

Having sailed in Milford Sound a couple of times, it was very different to fly over it. I could spot some very familiar landmarks, waterfalls etc. but it looked so different from the air. Mitre Peak, which is so dominant, because of its shape at water level, was very difficult to distinguish from all the other beautiful peaks. Normally, Milford Sound has a dozen or more boats cruising along its length, but there was nothing. There were a few planes flying at a lower altitude from the small airstrip at the head of the fiord, but that was all. Milford itself was deserted with empty carparks and little sign of life.

On the return journey, we flew past the 580m Sutherland Falls before crossing the divide to Lake Te Anau, where we flew its full length before descending to the airfield just outside Manapouri. Our trip had taken us about an hour and a half and it was truly magical to have seen so much in such a short time.

Meeting up with John again, we went into the small hub of Manapouri where there is a cafe in an old church. As we approached we were greeted by Magda and Andrew Cullen and Rod and Julia Mackichan who were on their own grand tour of New Zealand. We knew they were in the area and we had plans to meet up with them the following day, so this was a surprise. We enjoyed the catch-up over a couple of beers on the rooftop terrace. John and I announced that we were planning a walk the next day and it turned out that they were planning the same walk. We arranged to meet at 10.00am.

That night John and I had a cosy meal for two in the same bar.

After another breakfast at the Olive Tree, we met up with Mags and co. at the jetty in Manapouri. Incidentally, there wasn’t a breath of wind on the lake but the float plane had gone for its service. We were taking the very short crossing across the Hope Arm or Lake Manapouri.  We were embarking upon the Monument Track, a circular walk through native bush to a high point with a view. The boatman was a bit grumpy as he took our small change fee from us. I think it was probably part of his persona and done for effect more than anything else.

Alighting the other side, we chose to follow the anti-clockwise route, climbing up through the bush. It was pretty hot and airless in there and quite tough going at times. There were no views, just lots of trees. However, when we reached the high point, at the top of an escarpment, the views opening out over Lake Manapouri were superb. Well worth the effort. Continuing our circle, the route down seemed much easier, bringing us, for the last kilometre or so, to the lake shore. Had we not been in a rush to catch our ferry back, not wanting to give the ferryman an excuse to be grumpy, we would have lingered more on one of the beaches. We made it in time for the ferry and he seemed much more cheery than he had been in the morning. He was a bit of a character.

Back in Manapouri we went to the Church Cafe where we linked up with the girls who had had a super time on Doubtful Sound. They even went fishing for their supper! We swapped tales while enjoying a pint or two on the terrace.

That evening we met up with Magda and Co. at their house in Te Anau before heading out for a meal. At the end of the evening we said our goodbyes as, in the morning, we were continuing south while the others were heading north.


New Zealand 12 – Wanaka and Queenstown

Leaving Twizel we continued our journey south but didn’t get very far before we had to make a stop for the clay cliff at Omarama. The cliffs are made up of a wall of pinnacles and pillars of rock separated by narrow gullies. It is believed that these rocks were a setting for the Lord of the Rings films. As they are on private land it costs $5 to take your car up to the car park.

From there you walk up a lupin lined track to the cliffs. Initially, they look like a wall of yellow rock, but the track leads you steeply up to a gap. Passing through the gap you emerge into a strange world of baked clay with stones embedded in it. Clambering up the steep slopes of loose stones can be tricky in places and eventually you reach a point where you can go no further because of the impenetrable wall of clay. It really is a fascinating phenomena of geology.

We reached Wanaka by mid afternoon and checked into our house on a pleasant estate. Although it did not have views of the lake, there were some impressive hillsides poking above the rooftops opposite.

It had been our intention to walk the Rob Roy Track leading up to the Rob Roy Glacier but we learned that it was closed for damage repair. This left us with a decision to make as to what to do as an alternative. The weather had taken a turn for the worse, and although it wasn’t raining in Wanaka there was some in the area.

I decided it was worth us having a look at Lake Hawea and the upper end of Lake Wanaka, towards the Haast Pass. As we headed deeper into the mountains the weather looked more threatening, but still the views over Lake Hawea were rewarding. However, when we passed, what is known as The Neck, a narrow piece of land that separates the two lakes, it started to rain, and continued to do so the further up Lake Wanaka we travelled. At least the car was getting all of the dust washed off it.

It was time for a coffee. At Makaroa we found, at the side of the road, the Makaroa Country Cafe. Escaping the rain we walked in to hear a rather large lady berate a tourist for something he had not understood. Not wishing to get the same treatment, John and I disappeared into a corner and let the girls do the ordering.

It is a bizarre place that fulfils a number of functions. It is a a barn of a building and, yes it is a cafe. It is also a place where memorabilia can be displayed, largely national flags that hang from the rafters and car number plates that adorn the walls. It is also a shop that sells a variety of products including a “willy” shampoo that ensures your willy feels smooth and smells fresh! I resisted!

It was still raining when we left the cafe but we continued up towards the Haast Pass as far as the Blue Pools. These pools are reputed to be well worth seeing but I also know that blue pools look their best when there is a blue sky. Last year I took the group to the Hokitika Gorge, also having beautiful blue water, in similar conditions, to find the water a murky, grey. We decided not to get out but to head back to Wanaka, where there was no rain.

One of the most visited spots in Wanaka is the tree growing out of the lake. It is New Zealand’s most famous tree and is often referred to as ‘That Wanaka Tree’. It is a willow and is a pleasant walk along the shore of Roys Bay to get there. The reason it is so famous is that a hundred years ago it was a fence post. Having started out that way, it sprouted, set down some roots and has been there ever since, although some over-enthusiastic tourists have been know to walk out to it (the water is shallow enough) and climb it for the sake of a different picture. This wear and tear is beginning to have a detrimental effect on its well-being.

The next morning we left Wanaka and headed the short distance to Queenstown. En route we had to make a stop at the famous Cardrona Hotel. Just before we got there we passed the, now famous, bra fence. In about 1998 four bras appeared on a fence at the side of the road. The numbers grew until council officials removed them. More appeared , and when the total reached 200, they were removed again. There are mixed feelings about it. Some liked it as a tourist attraction, while others see it as an eyesore and a danger to traffic. It remains to this day.

The Cardrona Hotel looks as if it would fit nicely on a western film set. Most tourists find themselves stopping here as it is not only a good place for a coffee but it is also a museum. Sitting in the garden drinking coffee and eating eggs Benedict while fending off hungry sparrows was very enjoyable.

Naturally, visitors have lots of questions about the place and, I presume, the staff tire of having to answer the same old questions all the time. To help, and to keep everybody happy, there is a board of FAQ and the answers. How sensible.

We reached Queenstown at around lunchtime, giving us plenty of time to enjoy some of the fun activities on offer. John took to the water in a Hydro Attack, a small, shark-shaped semi submersible that powered through the water, occasionally sinking below the surface in order to pop back up, leaping vertically out of the water. It looked fun.

We then all went up the gondola to the Skyline perched on the hill overlooking the town. There, as in Rotorua, you can take a number of luge runs, tandem paragliding, bungy jumping, mountain biking, or enjoy the view with a beer! Whatever you think about Queenstown and its high energy image, it is in a superb location and from the balcony, with a beer in hand, it is some view with Lake Wakatipu below and mountains rising from all of its shores, including the Remarkables.

Later in the afternoon we took to the water with a sedate cruise on the steamer, TSS Earnslaw, which simply took us along the lake to the Walter Peak wharf, where many disembarked to have dinner at the restaurant, while others joined us for the trip back to Queenstown.

Eating out in town was made more interesting, that evening, by the fire alarm going off. We were eating in Farelli’s Trattoria, part of a complex of restaurants and bars in a converted waterfront warehouse. Initially, nobody took much notice, but eventually the staff asked us to leave while it was sorted out. Fortunately we had finished our main course.

Fire engines arrived but there was no sign of smoke coming from any of the establishments. While we waited the paraglider pilots who had been bringing people down off the hill all day, were taking their final flight of the day, solo. They gave us an aerial display above our heads and across the end of the lake to land on the beach. It was fantastic to see just how manoeuvrable they were. Only one slightly misjudged it and came down in a tree.

Eventually, the all clear ws sounded, by which time we needed a pudding!

New Zealand 11 – Lakes Tekapo and Pukaki

Our journey from Akaroa to Lake Tekapo took us via The Store @ Tai Tapu for yet another super coffee, and something sweet. It doesn’t matter where you go in New Zealand, however remote you are, there are always coffee stops of the highest quality. The route took us across some unusually flat, agricultural land running parallel with the coast, before heading inland to the town of Geraldine, where we stopped for a bite of lunch at Cafe Verde. This was another occasion where the food surpassed expectation, although Cafe Verde does feature in many guide books.

On reaching Lake Tekapo, we just had to stop at the first opportunity to take photos along the length of the lake towards the Southern Alps. The colour of the water is so dramatically blue, it is mesmerising. There was also a fascinating cloud formation on the hills to the east of the lake. There must have been a temperature inversion, because the cloud was floating over the top of the ridge and down the slopes, filling in any nook and cranny as it did so. There was virtually no other cloud to be seen but this hung there all day.

In Tekapo village there is a special church on a slight rise above the lake, the Church of the Good Shepherd. Because of its position and the beauty of its surroundings, it has become a popular tourist spot, which spoils it a little. Unfortunately, when we arrived the church was closed but we were still able to walk around it. Behind the altar the window is made out of plain glass rather than the traditional stained glass. The reason for this is that the natural view of the lake and mountains cannot be improved upon with stained glass. It has become a top spot for marriages in recent years.

Our accommodation in Tekapo was in traditional wooden bachs, small and functional with an outside toilet, albeit just the other side of the porch. Despite the fact they were small, they had everything you could possibly need, including a rather inquisitive ornament that seemed to be very interested in what we might be hiding in our shopping bags. They also had a view across the grit road and along the lake towards the mountains.

The following morning we took the short drive up to the summit of Mt. John for views looking down on the lake and along it towards the high mountains. There was a layer of cloud overhead, but we had every confidence that it would clear as the temperature rose. Mt. John has an observatory on the top with several telescopes pointing skywards. At night they do tours with an opportunity to observe the night sky. I had decided not to do this as I read that there was a fair bit of hanging around and waiting while others looked through the telescopes. It also relied on there being clear skies, a risk I was not prepared to take when I was booking things. The cafe on the summit gave us another great coffee!

We then ventured up the lakeside as far as we could go, before returning to visit the airfield to see what the chances were of taking the Mt. Cook scenic flight. There was still a fair bit of cloud about but they believed the forecast that suggested it would clear by early afternoon. We should return then.

Anticipating an early afternoon flight, we had a snack lunch on the lake shore before heading back to the airport. Angela was not joining us on the flight but would explore the lakeside observatory while we were gone.

By early afternoon the cloud had cleared and we were set to go. The flight took us the length of Lake Tekapo, allowing us to drink in the views of the blue water. At the end of the lake, where the mountain rivers flow into it, we were treated to some amazing aerial views of braided rivers of blue between silver banks of glacial silt. I don’t think I have ever seen anything like it and it was absolutely beautiful, nature’s art.

Leaving the lake behind us we headed into the mountains, jagged black peaks to begin with, but eventually snow capped mountains. The earlier cloud had drifted off to the west and we could see it in a blanket on the far side of the range. While the glaciers looked pristine with a blue/white hue, the snowfields on the upper slopes were beige. This, it turned out, was a new phenomenon, them having recently been covered with ash from the Australian bush fires. At one point we could see a helicopter that had landed on the snowfield. We were not that far above the mountains but it looked minute against a backdrop of snow.  Wherever we looked it was a sea of jagged, snowcapped mountains and in the middle of it all was Mt Cook, at 3724m is New Zealand’s highest peak. We flew around the summit so we could all see it from every angle.









All too soon, we began to head back but it was a really memorable experience and one I would recommend everyone to take if the conditions allow.

Angela met us when we landed and we set off on the short rive to Twizel and Lake Pukaki. Having checked into our house, I suggested we take a drive along the shore of the lake towards the village of Mt. Cook.

Lake Pukaki is longer than lake Tekapo and it took us over an hour to reach Mt. Cook village, although we avoided going into the village as it is a customised resort for skiing in the winter. Instead we walked up to a memorial cairn for all climbers killed on Mt. Cook and the surrounding peaks. This provided us with a view along the Hooker Valley to west side of the Mt. Cook.

We then drove round to the other side of the ridge coming off Mt. Cook to climb up to a view point that overlooked the Tasman Glacier and terminal lake as well as the eastern side of Mt. Cook.

We were so lucky to have seen Mt. Cook from just about every angle, from above and each side. It is the best I have ever seen it in several years of trying, and it has given me the impetus to want to explore it further, with a walk up the Hooker Valley, and more.

Hopefully, the photographs will say more than words can.