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.
Mt. Sunday isn’t a mountain that will instantly pop into many people’s minds as a famous mountain in New Zealand. And it isn’t much of a mountain anyways, it’s more of a hill. But it became a very identifiable spot due to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and one that, with some effort and driving, can be appreciated without a tour. That’s where I found myself one spending mid-day in January. The drive itself was worth the effort.
When comparing landscapes between the North and South Islands, there really isn’t much in common. Where the North Island is dominated by lovely rolling hills, small mountains and the stark contrast of volcanos in the middle, the South Island has severe, sharp, granite coloured mountain peaks and massive, flat, glacier carved valleys. I found myself on a hike at one such gorge, called the Rakaia Gorge.
The previous theme didn’t quite handle things as well as I’d like (photos being clipped off at times being the major one). So, I’ve updated the website and hopefully it will be a bit cleaner and easier to view now.
Swimming with dolphins was something high on my list of things to do down here in New Zealand. I had no interest in the dolphin encounters that had you in with a captive/penned dolphin. After swimming with wild sea lions of the Galapagos, I wanted to try the same with wild dolphins. New Zealand gives you that opportunity, in spades.
Resident year round to Kaikoura, the Dusky Dolphin is one of the smaller types of dolphin, but also very acrobatic and is well know for it’s jumping from the water. In addition, they tend to be more curious than other types, routinely investigating people in the water. Which makes them great for swimming with. On an early Monday morning I found myself, with 11 other eager swimmers, waiting in a boat in our wetsuits. After a 45 minute boat ride, the guides gave us the signal and we were in the water with 3-4 Dusky Dolphins. They came and swam around the group for a few minutes, to the joy of everyone.
Then it was back in the boat, and off to another small group of dolphins. Everyone hopped back in the water for round 2!
It really doesn’t seems like I have been 6 months here in New Zealand already. I feel both like it was yesterday that I was arriving in Auckland and limping around town on an injured hip, and yet at the same time as if that happened AGES ago. It really is hard to believe now.
I’ve covered a lot of ground – 12,000km of adventuring around this country so far. Actually compared to what I’d do in Sarnia, that mileage is about the same on a per year basis. The difference here was next to none of that mileage was done for work, all for exploring/travel.
Some highlights of my time here, just going to do the North Island since I’ll consider the South as the 2nd half of my time here.
The Tongariro Crossing
The Tongariro Circuit
My WWOOF/HelpX hosts in Kerikeri, Helensville and Opotiki
Cape Reinga and 90 Mile Beach
Budget wise, I’ve chewed through just over $9,000NZD (roughly $7,200 CAD) so far. Still ahead of my goal (I’d be at $6,000NZD if I was), but I’m not overly concerned at this point. I’ve done the majority of the expensive activities that I’d like to do at this point. There are still some more to come – Ice climbing on a glacier, glacier lake kayaking surrounded by ice bergs, probably a few other activities I don’t even know exist yet… but most things I’ve wanted to do, besides hikes (which are mostly free) are finished. The south island is all about the Great Walks for me. I believe I’ll try and pick up paid work come May or so to try and regain a little bit of money before heading to Australia, but I’ll see how things go closer to that point. By then, I should be finished with the South Island and have an idea where I’d like to settle down for my final months here. Right now Taupo is still my #1 choice for a place to spend a few months, but Rotorua, Tauranga or even Queenstown might be viable options. Queenstown in the winter might really be something to see. I just don’t want to drive much in that kind of weather…:)
I hope everyone still reading has enjoyed the journey so far – I certainly have!
Much like the drive to Christchurch, much of the drive to Kaikoura remained dull and uninteresting. It wasn’t until you got within 20km of Kaikoura that the scenery changed from blah to beautiful.