One of the activities here in New Zealand that Sabrina was really keen on was wine tasting. New Zealand loves their wines, and they can grow a pretty decent variety. There are a few major wine growing regions, including Hawkes Bay, Wairarapa (near Wellington), Nelson/Marlborough, Central Otago (near Queenstown), and the Waipara, near Christchurch.
I’d never been wine tasting before, so I was curious to see how this day would play out. My extent of wine knowledge is being able to identify whether it is a white or red wine…and no further. Yes, I’m slovenly and uncouth.
After the fun on Tasman Lake at Mt. Cook, we didn’t have much time to spare – we still had a full day of travel ahead of us, going from Mt. Cook to Christchurch. Not to mention, we were taking a detour along the way. But first was a quick stop at lovely Tekapo.
From there, we drove for several hours until arriving out our detour destination. Mt. Sunday, or Edoras from the Lord of the Rings films. Alex and Marc were keen to see the area.
After the Routeburn and Milford Sound, the trio and I stayed in Te Anau for the night. After that the other 3 went on a glow worm tour before we returned to Queenstown for another stop, once again midst pouring rain. We left Queenstown the next morning, still under the cover of rain and headed to Twizel, where Marc and Lexie enjoyed a Lord of the Rings Tour, while Sabrina and I wandered through the Clay Cliffs I had explored a while back (detailed here). Then, it was time to head to Mount Cook.
While Twizel had pretty good weather, Mt. Cook saw us return to rain and cold. Which was unfortunate, since the next morning we were going kayaking. And not just kayaking on any lake, but Tasman Lake, a lake that has the Tasman Glacier face at the far end of it – and numerous ice bergs floating in the lake. Kayaking amongst dozens of huge pieces of glacial ice? Sounds pretty cool.
A bit outside of Mt. Cook township was my last major hike in the region, so I hit it as I drove away and bid adieu to a wonderful area of New Zealand. That spot was the Tasman Glacier and Terminal Lake.
You can barely make out the actual Tasman glacier – it’s completely rock covered from its journey from high in the mountains to the lake. The glacier face is at the far end of the lake.
The next day I took to my 3rd big hike in the Mt. Cook area, this time to the Sealy Tarns. This would be the other ‘difficult’ hike of the 4, and constituted another endless stair climb. But when climbing the stairs, it means you are getting higher…and better views await those at altitude.
I opted for a slightly later morning start than the previous day (9am instead of 7am), and the weather was turning out to be even BETTER than the previous day.
First was a stop at Kea Point, a fairly flat walk to a look out over Mueller Lake and towards Mt. Cook.
A wonderful, sunny day. Then starting the Sealy Tarns track, you gain elevation quickly once again.
Of the 4 hikes I previously mentioned, two are considered difficult hikes. In that, they are pretty much non-stop stair climbs for an hour or two. So, pretty darn tiring. I opted to do the hike to the Red Tarns after the Hooker Valley hike, partially because I was curious to see a so-called ‘Tarn’, and also because I’d have a hiking partner for this trek, Hanna, from Germany. More on her another time, she’ll pop up again in several days.
Late in the morning we set off to tackle 1200+ stairs (or so a sign said). Memories of Grouse Mountain and injuring my hip did flash in my mind, but I was pretty sure I could handle a good stair climb now without another recurrence.
The day was still sunny and clear when we started the climb around 11am.
About half way up clouds started to cover the peak of Mt. Cook. It gave it a funny looking little cap.
The Mt. Cook area has a decent number of hikes that one can do. I did all of the day hikes in the area, though 4 stood out as being the most notable. 2 of these were easy, relatively flat hikes along the valley floors. The first was the hike up Hooker Valley, to the base of the Hooker Glacier. And more importantly, the base of Mt. Cook.
Early morning (7am) saw the sun starting to hit Mt. Sefton.
I’ve long thought that one of my favourite, if not overall favourite, drives that I’ve ever done is the hour long journey from Calgary to Banff. You start in the rolling foothills outside Calgary with snowy mountain peaks in the distance, and within an hour’s time you have travelled in through mountain passes to stand amongst towering peaks of tree and snow. It’s a wonderful, scenic drive. I think I may have found it’s equal, in the drive from Lake Tekapo to Mt. Cook.
Lake Tekapo itself is very scenic. It’s most notable for two things that you can get in the same picture – it has a historic church, which rests on a rise above the shores of Lake Tekapo, which itself is startling in colour and scenery.