A final blog from New Zealand (written in Sydney!).
One final top walk and a few random thoughts will complete our Kiwi odyssey.
"Your Lupins or your life". These plants are everywhere in New Zealand, brightening up the roadsides in multiple colours. Fab.
There were many Lupins on our way from Te Anau to Fairlie as we headed back up the country towards Christchurch. It's an enjoyable drive up the centre of Otago through wide valleys and across fertile plains. Large snow-capped mountains accompanied us on our journey.
Apart from a quick side trip to Lake Ohau we headed directly to Fairlie and wandered around the small town looking for provisions. Nice town, friendly people and good, clean motel.
Roxanne Mount Cook Hooker Valley walk - 28 November 2011
The day before we had driven up from Te Anau in perfect weather. You could see for miles and Mount Cook stood out at the end of Lake Pukaki, towering above the neighbouring mountains. The drive had been long so we did not stop for pictures. Big mistake.
The rain poured down the next day. We still headed back to Mount Cook (Aoraki in the native tongue - it means sky splitter or something like that). You could not see the car in front yet alone the largest mountain in New Zealand.
We sat in the car and waited for the rain to go away. We sat in a café to do the same. We debated going but on the way out we agreed to turn the car up towards the start of the most popular walk in the area. It was still raining but slightly less so now.
The clouds started to clear so we had a view of the lower slopes and ridges at the top of the right side as we looked up the Hooker Valley. There were small peaks of moraine left by long disappeared glaciers and the wild Hooker River that had to be crossed several times. You will see from the pictures that the crossings involved swing bridges - one of which had been freshly repaired.
There were interesting features to walk on: slippery rocks near the swing bridges, wooden walkways across some grassy areas and boulders to bound across where the river had flooded part of the walkway.
The views back down to Lake Pukaki and up the valley walls were excellent. The lake was now bathed in blue sky and the clouds ebbed and flowed to reveal glaciers and packs of ice on the sides of the mountains along the side of the valley. We eventually reached Lake Hooker where a glacier at the foot of Mount Cook (the Hooker Glacier) fed the top of the lake with icebergs.
The wind was so strong that we could lean into it. At one point my hat took off - Karen was hoping it would disappear as it identified me as a tourist and is perhaps the untrendiest thing anyone in the UK owns. I caught it and wear it proudly to this day.
This was a really good finish to our epic walking across the country. We returned back to our motel in Fairlie in good spirits.
Say you, say me
Canadians and Kiwis share a need to add random words to their sentences. With Canadians it is "Eh" but with Kiwis its "Bro" and "Hey". As a result some conversations between nationals of these countries may go on for 10 to 15% longer than they need to.
Talking of language, mild swearing seems to be acceptable at all times of the day on TV and Radio. Mind you most of it seems to be coming from Graham Henry (the successful All Blacks Coach). God knows what language he would have used if they had lost!
The radio adverts alarmed us on our drive to Christchurch. First of all there were several men singing "show us your crack" for a long time before someone explained that they were selling windscreen repair services. At one point the advert was preceded by another where a gentleman was shouting about different kinds and sizes of sh**s. before the end we finally worked out his accent and established that he was selling sheds.
Hells Bells Peel Forest and Christchurch
After a couple of nights in Fairlie we left for Christchurch for our final night in New Zealand.
On the way we visited Geraldine where we popped into Barkers (the famous chutney and jam store) before heading out for a very short walk in Peel Forest.
We approached Christchurch in trepidation. The place is hurting and whilst the rest of the world has moved on to other disasters or focusing on the financial woes, Christchurch and New Zealand are still coming to terms with the devastation that the earthquake wreaked. Parts look worn down and abandoned and the city centre is still a no go except for twice weekly periods when they allow locals to walk down the main street to view the crumpled cathedral.
You will see no pictures in our blog. It seemed disrespectful to even think about taking our camera out. I hope that the new government sticks to its promise to rebuild.
We flew out the next day, sad to be leaving such a wonderful country and great people but also looking forward to catching up with our friends in Australia.
Thank you New Zealand.
The Final countdown
"Come Mr Tally Man, Tally me the distance"
So the final statistics for NZ read, 5201 km driven and 321.5 km walked in 30 days. Very, very tired now!