Thursday, 1 March 2012

New Zealand!

After an ‘overnight’ 3 hr flight, sat across from someone with a kid with the world’s worst earache, we touched down in New Zealand. I wanted to give them the world’s worst headache too.
We picked up our home for the 6 weeks, and by 7:00 am we were in the Supermarket! A true breakfast of champions later (cream cakes) we had loaded our little fridge with enough wine to see us through a few days and headed for our first stop; Lake Tekapo.
Lake Tekapo was only a 3 hour drive but after an hour we pulled over into a car park in the middle of a farmers market, made the bed and had a sleep! I have no idea where we stopped, but an hour later we were back on our way.
By lunchtime, we needed a brew, so decided to pull over at the next rest stop and put the kettle on. Looks like we choose a brew spot well.

The clouds broke and the sun came out just in time for us to arrive in Lake Tekapo. Our site for the next couple of nights was perfect, right by the lake.  Here’s our view from the ‘bedroom’ window.

We spent the rest of the day unpacking and getting acquainted with our new home and woke up early and sort of refreshed ready to tackle Mt John. The day was warm and overcast, but the more we climbed the warmer and sunnier it became. By the time we had reached the top (HASL: 1024m) it was roasting!

At the top was the Mount John Observatory, located here by the University of Canterbury due to the unparalleled low levels of light pollution and clear, dark skies. As it was the middle of the afternoon the stars were a little difficult to see, so we walked down the other side and round the western side of the lake back to base, stopping halfway to pose (and maybe have a little rest!)

You may think that the photos have been altered, the colour saturated to make the lake look so blue, but no photoshopping has occurred (except for a little sharpening and a crop!!). The colour is created by ‘rock flour’.  The glaciers in the headwaters of Tekapo grind rock into fine dust on the journey towards the lake.  This rock dust, or flour, is suspended in the water and when combined with sunlight produces this vibrant colour.

The next day we were off once more; destination Aoraki / Mount Cook, the highest mountain in Australasia.
Half way there was Lake Pukaki. The water here was a milky blue rather than the bright turquoise of Tekapo , which we assumed was due to the low level of sunshine and high volume of cloud around this morning!

An hour later and we arrived at the Aoraki / Mount Cook visitor centre. According to Maori legend, Aoraki was a boy and he and his brothers came down from the heavens to visit Papatuanuku (Earth) in a canoe. The canoe capsized and the boys were turned to stone creating the mountains.
We choose the hike through Hooker Valley as it was the longest single day walk and sounded like fun! We parked the van up, walked for about half an hour through a wood and found ourselves at……..the car park! We could have driven the first few kms down to the start of our walk!
At first the walk was fairly flat over rough but clearly marked paths though the tussock plains.

We crossed a few rivers and went over a couple of bridges, and then the tussock plains changed into terminal moraine fields from the Mueller and Hooker glaciers and the walk turned a little more challenging!

We made it to Mount Sefton (HASL 3158m) walked around the corner and followed the Hooker River towards Mount Cook (HASL 3754m).

The weather started to change and the clouds rolled in, and it generally didn’t look too good. We decided to turn around and start the two hour journey back to the van just in case!

On our way to our overnight stop in Omarama, we stopped at a picnic site at Lake Pukaki for a brew as the sun went down and were duly rewarded.

There is nothing in Omarama, apart from a hot tub place, a petrol station and a couple of places to stay. We bought some diesel.
Our drive south to Dunedin took about 3 hours and passed through a few interesting place. First was Oamaru, a well preserved Victorian town. This was the only place we’ve ever been where you could hire a Penny Farthing but as it was raining (a lot) it was locked away ‘for your own safety’.
Next up was Moeraki, home to the world famous Moeraki Boulders. Amazeballs!

Maori legend claims these were food baskets that were on a wrecked ancestral canoe which first brought Maori to New Zealand from Hawaiki.  The food baskets turned into boulders and the canoe into reef. Science says that these were formed on the sea bed 60 million years ago when lime salts gathered around a hard core (similar to the way pearls are formed). These boulders were covered with sand and then within the sandstone cliffs, and over the years, erosion has uncovered the boulders as the cliffs retreated.

The closer we got to Dunedin, the steeper the hills were. Our poor little van! But, we made it, parked up and hopped on a bus into town. As we were the only people on the bus, the driver decided to take a little detour and give us a guided tour of the city! It didn’t really take very long as Dunedin isn’t very big, although its population does grow by 30% each March when 25000 students descend on Otago University, New Zealand’s oldest and most respected (the NZ Ox-bridge). Dunedin was originally called New Edinburgh, as the first western settlers were Scottish. The name was changed in the 20th Century to Dunedin, the old Celtic name for Edinburgh.

It was getting cold so we headed into the nearest pub for a drink and then managed to get ourselves on a tour of a brewery. Speight’s Brewery was founded in the late 19th century by a Scot, James Speight. He worked for another brewery as a salesman, and it was whilst working for this brewery he met a brewer and a maltster (the man responsible for running the malt house). Our tour guide’s great grandfather was one of these founders - the master maltster. Between them they set up Speight’s and the rest is history!

They still use most of the original machinery they purchased when the brewery was founded too.

The best part of the tour though was in the tasting; Speight’s Gold Medal Ale, Summit Lager, Pilsner, Speight’s Cider and a couple of dark ales and stouts all went down, before we helped ourselves to some more!

 We were kicked out, but soon found the Speight’s Ale House next door and ordered some more (and some food to help keep it down!)

A good first night in Dunedin!  
Until we left the pub. We thought it would be a good idea to walk home, as it ‘was only a few miles’. And it was only a few miles. All uphill. Up very steep streets. For an hour. Not amused.

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