Friday, November 3, 2017

Twizel, Mt. Cook and Tekapo

Sadly, this was going to be our last full day in New Zealand.  Anticipating a heli-hike as our grand conclusion, Bob and I drove to Mt. Cook Village early the morning of Monday, March 27, 2017.  Unfortunately, weather conditions were once again unfavorable and our glacier hike was cancelled.  So we scrambled for another option and booked a boat ride around the Tasman Glacier Terminal Lake where you can get up-close encounters with the floating glaciers.  We boarded the bus which took us to the start of a short hiking trail.  It was about a 30-minute hike to the lake, but when we arrived, we were informed that because of poor visibility the boats would not be safe for tours today.  So we turned around and went back to Mt. Cook Village and received a refund for our tour.  Disappointed, but not discouraged, we meandered through the Mt. Cook museum.

We never did get a clear view of Mt. Cook and the surrounding area, but it seemed to be a nice place to spend a night under better weather conditions.  The silver lining in the clouds was driving past the beautiful Pukaki Lake one last time.

With time on our hands, we decided to drive over to Tekapo Lake.  Tekapo is supposed to be one of the best places in the world for star-gazing,  Of course, with the cloudy skies we had been experiencing, we were glad we had not booked a star-gazing tour.  Instead, we took a few photos of the lake and the famous church which sits on it's bank.  We strolled through a few gift shops and ate some good food.

 This is what the starry night sky is supposed to look like on a clear evening in Tekapo.

This day was not the big bang we had hoped to leave New Zealand with, but we had enjoyed a wonderful vacation and experiences in this beautiful land of the long white (and gray) cloud and had nothing to complain about.  This small country is truly is one of the greatest tourist destinations in the world for a reason!  There is something for everyone to enjoy, and getting around is easy and affordable.  We feel so blessed to have experienced many of it's wonders before leaving Asia!  The next morning we left Twizel early and drove 3.5 hours back to Christchurch.  Unfortunately, we didn't get to see much of the city, which is in itself a tourist destination.  Instead we boarded a plane back to Auckland and caught our flight back to Seoul.  It was fitting that as we awaited our flight home, we were surrounded by birds on the lawn which seemingly wanted to send us into the sky with lofty memories of their beautiful country!

 As they might say in Maori:  He pai te ataahua o Aotearoa!

Thursday, November 2, 2017

Dunedin to Twizel

New Zealand has a good population of members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.  Bob and I were happy to be able to worship with a congregation in Dunedin on Sunday morning, March 26, 2017.  We were warmly welcomed by many of the members and enjoyed being part of an area conference conducted held that day.  After church we began driving north on our way to Twizel.  The drive would take about 3 hours, but we made several stops along the way.  The Moeraki Boulders are such an other worldly sight!  They look like giant alien eggs or pods that were dropped on this beach and are in the process of hatching some kind of creatures from Mars!  You'll have to read the sign below to understand what these fascinating boulders really are.


Our next stop was at Oamaru where we hoped to see the Blue Penguin Colony.  However, the only ones we saw were in the gift shop.  It was here we were informed that the only time to observe penguins is at dusk when they return from a day at sea to rest on dry land.  That's why were were unable to see penguins while in New Zealand - our timing was always off!  However Oamaru (like all of New Zealand) is a paradise for bird watchers.  And we saw numerous birds perched on a pier in the harbor.  Bob was intrigued with the way they ran across the water before taking off in flight.

The town of Oamaru was charming and would have been a fun place to spend more time.  The Steam Punk Museum looked like it showcased some creative artistry!

We would have liked to stay in Mt. Cook Village but our selection of places to stay was quite limited.  So we opted for a motel in Twizel which is between Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo and a 30-minute drive to Mt. Cook.  We were not sure what our plans were going to be and wanted to be flexible in case of bad weather.  I really, really, really wanted to be able to heli-hike on a New Zealand glacier.  We had booked a flight to Tasman Glacier for the next morning and it would be our last opportunity to hike on a glacier.  As soon as we arrived and got settled in Twizel, we drove to Mr. Cook Village to hike the 5 km Hooker Valley Trail.  Driving along the shoreline of Lake Pukaki, we caught glimpses of it's beautiful milky blue water and the majestic glacier topped Mt. Cook.  If it have been a clear sunny day, the scenery would have been spectacular!  Honestly, the photos and videos I saw online of the lakes of New Zealand did not adequately prepare me for the incomparable beauty of the glacier fed waters!


The Hooker Trail Hike was another favorite, even in less than ideal weather conditions.  Seeing the iceburgs floating in the lake at the foot of the glacier reminded me of our Alaskan cruise. (See here.)  There is just something amazing about that blue ice!

Dinner in Twizel satisfied our hungry bellies and completed another active day in New Zealand.