Monday, 26 November 2012

Have Camper Van, must Travel, Mount Cook to Queenstown

Waking up in a camper-van was a new experience. My bed was comfortable and warm. I untangled myself from the duvet and rolled over to look out of the window at the trees shadowing Lake Tekapo.
How different this lush, green Eden of a country is in comparison to the tawny golds and yellows of the African bush that I have grown up with.” I thought.
Morning,” said Graham as he brought me a steaming cup of coffee, “beautiful, isn’t it?”
Yes, not like England, or Europe,” I mused, “The air is so pristine and everything seems to breath easy, you get what I am trying to say?”
Graham nodded, “One could easily live here.”
I nodded, “Now I know fairyland does exist.” The light twinkled, skipping on the ripples over the Lake's clear, blue glacial waters.
After breakfast, we looked at our map, “Mount Cook looks good, what do you think?”
I nodded in agreement. No one visits South Island, New Zealand without paying homage to that famous land mark, sacred to the Maori's, their name for their ancestral mountain, “Aoraki.

Driving along Route 8, we stopped to take photo's at the foot of Lake Pukaki, then on Route 80 to Mount Cook, where we called in at the visitor centre located on the High Dam.
The well informed guide at the centre came across to chat, and told us that the view of Mt. Cook was known as “The Million Dollar View.”
It's beautiful,” I said as I looked at the massive mountain reaching up to the sky.
Graham put his hand on my shoulder, “3, 753 meters high”
How do you know that?” I asked him, impressed, “Learnt it in geography at school, years ago,” was his reply.
I shook my head, amazed, as always at the amount of general knowledge my husband stores in his head.
The guide went on to tell us that the Lake is a major water source for the upper and lower hydro systems, having been raised in 1950 by 9 meters and again in 1980 by 37 meters to create massive water storage.
We still had a way to go, and turned our backs to the mass of water, “Let's go catch that mountain up ahead,”
I nodded in response to what Graham had said, “A photo opportunity at every turn in this country!”

The “Lord of the Rings trilogy” came to my mind as we drove towards Mount Cook and its soaring peaks and glaciers. I thought of the film crews who filmed the entire film on different locations in New Zealand.
Here, the ancestors of Aoraki watched as the crew re-enacted the Misty Mountains of Tolkien's epic tale.
We passed the Glentanner Station, a fully working high country sheep station and then fifteen minutes later arrived at the Mount Cook village, where we went and mulled over a menu at the Hermitage Hotel.
Um, let's give this place a miss,” we both said at the same time and laughed.
Things on that menu were a trifle expensive and we knew we had enough for a hearty meal and hot cup of tea in our trustworthy camper-van!
In the warmth of our refuge, we took in the vast blanket of snow cloaked over Mount Cook, its peak wearing a flossy hat of cloud.
Kia tuohu koutou, Me he maunga teitei, Ko Aoraki anake.” I read from my travel guide.
Translate,” asked Graham
If you must bow your head, then let it be to the lofty mountain Aoraki,”
A prayer or blessing.
I bowed my head in the direction of the mountain.
I think to to the Maori's, the mountain represents the elements that bind the spiritual and physical elements of all things together. It is the source of creation and life.”
There was no doubt that there was a powerful sacredness that had enveloped us as we sipped steaming mugs of tea.

We back tracked along Route 80 which winds adjacent to the Ben Ohau Mountain Range and stopped at Twizel, the town of trees.
I could settle here Babe,”
Why?” Graham asked.
Because it's a great name, - imagine telling people you live in a place called Twizzle!”
I visualised us living in one of the Scandinavian style houses, set in amongst the 250,000 trees that had been planted by the local residents.
A new town, constructed in 1968 in the Mackenzie Basin on land formerly part of the Ruataniwha Station, Twizel takes its name from the River Twizel.
The town survived being bulldozed to ground level once the Upper Waitaki power Scheme was completed, but the residents fought the Government.
They won and in 1983 the town, its shops, houses and facilities were handed over to the County.
It is now known as the “Heart of the high Country” and survives on tourism. In the summer water-sports and golfing and in the winter ski season.
Twizel,” it rolled off my tongue, “Bet the witch's house in Hansel and Gretel was called Twizel...sounds like a kind of sugar stick or cup-cake.”
Come on Babe,” Graham hauled me out of my day dream, “there's a grocery shop, let's get practical and stock up for tonight.”

Travelling south, we arrived at a small town called Omarama situated on the junctions of routes 8 and 83 and as we wanted to reach our camp in Queenstown, we did not stop, but carried on through the Lindis Pass, which links the Mackenzie Basin to Central Otago, saddling the Ahuriri and Lindis Rivers, 971 meters above sea level.
Snow teased the edges of the road and I was once again glad that Graham was driving. The view of the valley way, way below as we drove along had me closing my eyes on occasion!

Arriving at Comwell a small town set on the shores of Lake Dunstan, I said to Graham as I looked at the map, “left or right? Both roads are Route 6!”
He leant over from the drivers seat and looked at the map, “Queenstown to the left and Wanaka to the right. Still plenty of time, let's go right.” he said as he turned right.
Lake Wanaka was nestled in the base of towering mountains and was picture book perfect.
We pulled over onto the side of the road and got outside to stretch our legs.
Coffee?” I asked Graham, “Why not?” He agreed as we moved into the back of the van, out of the cold.

Time to find a place for the night,”
Yes,” I agreed, as we both moved back into the front of our flash camper.
We back tracked down the way we had come, travelling through Cromwell once again and passed through Arrow Junction and on to Queenstown, snuggling the shores of Lake Wakatipu.
We stopped for a while to take a look at Nevis Bungy, on the corner of Camp and Shotover Streets. This is New Zealand's highest bungy jump and has a 134 meter drop.
Not going on that!” I moved away from the edge.
Me neither,” Graham said.

We got back into the van and drove through the ski town to Frankton Motor Camp on the lake edge.
After a lovely hot showers in the camp-site bathroom facilities, we took a walk into the town where we found a cosy little restaurant.
The side walks outside were full of happy holiday makers all out for a good evening on the town.
The waitress looking after our table informed us that Queenstown was known as the “Adventure Capital of the World,” and that it has half the population in New Zealand in Tourists every year.
Wow,” I took a sip of my wine and winked at Graham, “and we are two of them!”

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