Friday, 11 March 2016

NZ: Oamuru, Mount Cook, Tekapo, Fairlie

We enjoyed our Spoons game so much that we went to bed super late and woke up also very late....gone 11am and check out was 10, whoops! The campsite owners didn’t mind/notice, and we got on the road north to Oamaru, which may be my favourite town ever in New Zealand.  It’s known for the penguins (which you have to pay $40 to see which none of us were willing to do) and as being the HQ for SteamPunk.  The boys headed off to the museum whilst we strolled around – there’s a steampunk themed kids playground which we spent a good half an hour playing on, before wandering round the Victorian streets – the oldest architecture I have seen in NZ so far! It got me pretty excited.  I felt like I was in the south of France, the sun was beating down and the white washed buildings got me feeling happy.  It’s filled with old curiosity shops and galleries and is nice to wander round. 

Here I found the best/weirdest/inappropriate 30th birthday present ever for Amy…I hope she likes it!!

We drove inland from Oamuru towards Mount Cook, staying the night in a hostel on the way in a cute little town called Kurow where I had to make a little pit stop to the doctor for a bout of cystitis, lovely….BUT in New Zealand they provide you with little funnels to pee into, best thing EVER!!! If only they did that in the UK hey!! AND they had the drugs I needed on site so didn't even need to go to a pharmacy. 

The drive into the Southern Alps was beautiful - it’s one of those roads where you want to pull over every 5 seconds as the views get better and better and when you look at your photos you realise they get better and better too and you struggle to pick which one to choose.  We stopped at some chalk cliffs which was a 10k detour down a gravel road, to be treated to a sign that wanted $5 entry per car.  Anke persuaded me to pay and we are very glad we did – it was almost like a mini monument valley and worth the entry fee.   We also turned up at the right time – we had the place to ourselves and as we were leaving loads of people had just turned up. I love it when that happens.

 As you approach Mount Cook you drive beside Lake Pukaki, which is the most amazing lake I have ever seen.  It is a ridiculous baby blue colour and vast and none of it seemed real, it was too picturesque. I wanted to cry it was so beautiful.  Mount Cook looms up behind the lake in the distance and you get ever closer and suddenly you’re right in front of it.  It reminded me a bit of a bald eagle with its snow capped top and black bottom.  Here's loads of photos of the approach because I couldn't choose the best one....

We camped at the $10 DOC scenic campsite, probably the prettiest campsite I have ever had the pleasure of staying at, went for a quick walk round the area, cooked dinner and woke early the next day to do the 8 hour return hike up to the Mueller Hut.  

 As with all my starting-in-the-morning walks, I never have any energy first thing and really struggled for the first 30 minutes, but once my body woke up a bit I gained a bit of pace.  The first part of the walk is brutal – you ascend 2200 zigzaggy steps which is really hard on your knees, but you’re rewarded with stunning views of Mount Cook, the glacial lake and the valley. 

We stopped for a break at Sealy Tarn, which Daan, Wouter and Rike had all decided they would make their finish point, however we met a nice Kiwi man who managed to persuade them to continue on to the top to the hut with us which I was super happy about.  

The second stage of the hike was so much fun – a rocky steep pathway where you have to pick your own track and scramble and climb up rocks.  You go through a huge boulder jungle where I had loads of fun jumping from rock to rock, then scramble up a very slidey scree slope before reaching the top of the hill   where you get 360 degree views of the valley below you and the glaciers to your left and Mount Cook to your right. It was breathtaking in every sense of the word!! Whilst standing gaping at the view we heard a huge rumble, and turned to see an avalanche coming off the mountain.  AMAZING!

clambering up these rocks!

having a pit stop

more clambering

2200 steps and they're still smiling

made it!!

We continued on a little further to the hut itself, where we had a well earned rest and some lunch before heading back down again.  My legs were still sore 4 days later but it was definitely worth every minute!

The end of the avalance

We got back to the campsite to discover that 2 of our 4 tents had blown down (mine had survived for the sole reason I am sleeping in huge comfort on 3 pieces of foam which had weighed down the tent!!), so packed up, had a celebratory beer and headed off to our next campsite in Fairlie, via a pizza in Tekapo.

The campsite was really nice and also cheap, so we made the decision to stay for 2 nights and have a relaxing day the following day (which also happened to be Rike’s birthday, wahoo!). 

We celebrated at breakfast with a variety of birthday surprises including balloons and cake and candles and baked beans which I probably got overly excited about. 

who knew party hats could be worn so many different ways?

The day was spent lazily exploring Tekapo and discovering there’s not much there apart from a beautiful but tiny church and some tourist shops, and a little town called Burkes Pass, which has a random 1950s small America town feel to it.  That evening we had a BBQ and drank too much wine and had general silliness and laughing until we cried and it was probably one of the best nights I have had a in a  long time – we are really close as a little group and I will miss every one loads when we eventually split up!!!  Tekapo is known for its stars and I didn’t want to go to bed until I had seen a shooting star, so Wouter and I lay with our heads sticking out the tent until we had both seen 2 then we could go to sleep.    I also learnt some Dutch - I think my favourite thing is the fact that one of their insults is “Krijg de tering met je pesthoofd” which literally translated means “Get tuberculosis with your black death face”.

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