Hello! Welcome to “New Zealand: The Sights”, a series of chapters recounting my visual journey throughout the beautiful countryside of New Zealand’s South Island. If you’re interested in some minor anecdotes, click through to my ramblings here. If not, read on.
Kicking us off, we travelled a long way to Lake Coleridge - the first of many lakes to come. Now, you’re gonna get this a lot and it really can’t be emphasised enough - New Zealand is a gorgeous country with stunning vistas everywhere you look, making it tough to keep my eyes on the road. Even empty plains were a sight to behold.
Driving out from Christchurch was straightforward, even on the gravel paths. However, due to a lack of research, my experience with Lake Coleridge wasn’t the best it could’ve been. Unaware that the surrounding mountains were scalable, I drove straight to the lakefront and missed out on the bigger picture. Despite my shortcoming, it was still a treat for the eyes and was a great sampler for what’s in store.
The Lake Tekapo township was tiny, with food and drink being the only things keeping you entertained. Or on cloudy nights, you can hole up in the warmth of your bed and binge through all episodes of the rebooted Queer Eye on a solid internet connection that won’t have you staring at four pixels at a time Yaaaaass queeeeen~ The lake, on the other hand, was anything but. Gorgeous snow capped mountains lingered far off in the distance as waves from the large body of water lapped back and forth. Though it doesn’t show in the pictures, the water was incredibly blue and the temperatures were freezing cold as winds gusted you off your feet.
Each morning, there would be an attempt at catching sunrise and each morning, the odds were against me. The same applied to sunset. Sun-kissed mountain peaks were as rare as honest politicians. On this morning, I made my way out to Lake Alexandrina for the first of many attempts. Going from roadside to lakeside, the sunrise was quickly making its exit and I still hadn’t taken a snap. I was on thin ice, literally. Carefully weaving through the thickets, I was tempting fate with each crunching footstep, ever ready to feel my leg sink into the icy waters. And after all that effort, I had nothing to show for it - it just wasn’t there.
For the rest of the day, I exhausted my body with a ~4hr round trip hike up Mount Cook on the Hooker Valley track. Without weights excess of several kilos, the hike would’ve been a breeze. Carrying a bunch of gear to satiate your hobby hunger? My shoulders were in for a greeeaat time. Though stretching for many kilometres, the track was predominantly level, making it incredibly easy. Before the big pay-off that is Hooker Lake, the track does treat you to some marvellous views (Mueller Lake especially) but a lot of it is more or less the same, allowing you to focus on complaining about your shoulders giving you grief instead.
Reaching the end of the track, the view of Hooker Lake was just incredible. However, I was shafted by nature with a lack of ice blocks dotted around the water. Instead, I was able to enjoy the stunning mountain scape with a large puddle with some glacier remnants washed ashore. With one part a strong desire to get a closer shot and the other part curious to see what view laid between the mountains, I was ready to tempt fate once again.
Looking at the mounds of loose dirt, dense undergrowth and jagged rocks, I easily made my way up and routed along the top. Hopping from rock to rock, I crossed my fingers and prayed that I wouldn’t have to eat shit. Looking back, I travelled a surprisingly long way but I wasn’t able to discover what was in the valley beyond. I did get some sweet close-ups though.
On the way back, we stopped by the Lake Pukaki viewpoint for a botched attempt at pink skies (waited hours, too!). Sunset aside, the lake was just a vast body of beauty. Absolute stunner.
With that, my day ended and so has part one for NZ: The Sights - Canterbury. Thank you for reading and join me next time for part two, where I return to Mount Cook but take on the Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier walk.