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5th Feb 2011 – Revisiting the Magnificent Mountains and Lovely Lakes of New Zealand

February 5, 2011

Lake Wanaka with moody clouds hiding Mt Aspiring

Some of the first things I noticed this time in my first few hours in New Zealand were the sounds of the birds, the smell of the trees and the abundance of brightly coloured flowers in the gardens of Christchurch’s suburbs. Before this moment I hadn’t understood quite why Christchurch was called “Garden City” although I spent at least three months here in the summer last year. I guess this is because previously I had a very English perspective, and this time I have just spent an extended period in Canada. In my brief time in England in June of this year I’d particularly noticed the gardens there.

The first days here were spent catching up with friends made on my last visit as well as sourcing and buying a campervan. I had just three days in which to get one before my folks turned up for a long awaited and meticulously planned three week trip around the south island. Before long I also remembered how fierce the sun is here when I missed a couple of patches with the suncream on my arms when at the beach. Since then my freckles have appeared in full force and I’m managing to turn a darker shade of white.

Homestead Bay, West Wanaka

The weather for the first couple of weeks was almost entirely pouring rain apart from the odd half a day here or there of sun. Not just a little rain. The result of the La Nina weather system here in New Zealand is a dry spring and a wet summer. The weather just turned cold and wet when we turned up to make up for the hot spring! Bad timing I suppose, but what can you do about the weather? I rather enjoyed being forced to relax and spent many an afternoon reading in the warmth of my folks’ rented camper. We did still try to do some of the many walks planned but sometimes got cold and discouraged and some of the views of glaciers and mountains were non-existent because of low cloud. I had no waterproof hat on my cycling specific coat and my Mother’s umbrella decided not to stay up and looked like a giant bat floating and flapping above her as she walked. At times I was cameraman’s assistant holding it above her as she took pictures of waterfalls and the moss covered trees and undergrowth in the rainforests of Fiordland.

Colquhouns Beach, Minaret Burn Track, West Wanaka

Christmas was spent cruising Milford Sound with its dramatic U-shaped valleys, wrongly named being as it’s actually a fjord because it’s formed from glacial action not river action. They tried to made up for it by calling the whole area Fiordland but managed get this wrong also because they used an “i” instead of a “j” in fjord! I enjoyed having a shower under a 150m waterfall and the views were spectacular.

After Christmas it finally stopped raining and the sun shone gloriously down upon us as we enjoyed driving, stopping, and taking pictures without the need for an umbrella, over a winding mountain pass that I had ridden on my cycle tour across the island in 2009 (for write up click here) The pass took us to some of my favourite parts of New Zealand because the glacial lakes are vividly blue and there are gorgeous vistas of the still snow-topped Southern Alps. On New Year’s Eve we were at Lake Tekapo with our vans parked right by the lake front beach. I made friends with some Brazilians and Canadians with whom I saw the New Year in on the beach. We celebrated with a glass of champagne and were treated to a firework display from some of the Kiwi camp residents. The last days of my folks’ visit were mostly sunny and we got to hike at the pretty Rakaia Gorge and then drove some spectacular roads on the crater rim of an old volcano that is now Akaroa Harbour.

Mitre Peak, Milford Sound

Since the new year I sold my van as it was drinking too much of my budget in fuel and bought myself a bicycle trailer to hit the roads under my own steam which would mean I just have to feed myself with extra fuel instead. A win-win situation where I will get to see beautiful things and experience them more wholly without the whine and rattle of the underpowered van spoiling things and the smell of petrol masking the pollen of the lovely roadside flora. I’m yet to set off northwards because I wanted to return to Wanaka where I missed the more hardcore mountain biking trails because I was still waiting for the leg to be fully recovered before attempting them. I also wanted to catch up with a fellow traveller and cyclist that I met here in 2009 whose travel plans brought her back at the same time as me. We agreed to meet in Wanaka and the trails were so good, I decided to stay for a couple of weeks with her but unfortunately she had a bad accident and broke her back. She’s now worth a lot more money in the amount of titanium they used to put her back together but she’s doing great and still wants to see some more of New Zealand. So I am sticking with her for the first six weeks of her rehab and my trip north will likely start around mid-March now. For now we are chilling and exploring in Dunedin before a hospital appointment mid-Feb and then will return to Wanaka because the scenery is so gorgeous, lots of lovely lakes to walk by and still more trails for me to explore.

Mountain Biking on the Crater Rim in Christchurch

Some of my favourite pictures are shown on this blog but you can check out more pictures by clicking on the links below

New Zealand Revisited Dec 2010 – 1
New Zealand Revisited Dec 2010 – 2
New Zealand Revisited Dec 2010 – 3
New Zealand Scenery and Mountain Biking

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 5, 2011 4:36 am

    Awesome as always!!!!

  2. Michelle Vithal Bergström permalink
    February 8, 2011 4:18 pm

    Amazing adventures, amazing stories, amazing pics…from an amazing lady!
    You have me…well…amazed. Enjoy and be safe!

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