Mount Cooke was awesome. According to the Maori, if you have the opportunity to see the peak of Mount Cooke you are blessed. I consider Rach and I blessed anyways, but it was incredible to see all of the Mountain outside of a photograph. We got off Our bus from Queenstown in Twizel (Tw-eye-zell) and then we were picked up by Cook Connections Shuttle service and taken off to the Mount Cooke Village. On our shuttle journey we made friends with another Canadian gal named Amanda. Amanda is 28 and is quite a well traveled Ontario(ite?). It was really cool to catch up with someone who was familiar with our home town and understood that Canadians don’t actually live in igloos. Amanda also travels on the Kiwi Bus and mentioned that instead trying to catch the Kiwi Bus back in Twizel the next day at 10am, it would be fun if we were able to catch the shuttle to Lake Tekapo with her and spend the day hiking the Hooker Valley Track. Excited and keen, I spent the next 30 or so minutes re-arranging our plans so we could make it happen. The Mountains were smiling and looking over us because we managed to make it work! That evening Rach and I did a short hike called the Kea Point Hike. It only took about 2 hours but it was awesome to muck about looking at the Blue ice/snow mountains and breathe in some crisp alpine air.
The next morning we ate our breakfast and headed out to do the Hooker Valley Hike with Amanda (I use the term Hike loosely as is was more of a walk). One part near the start was actually a bit sobering.. there was a monument that was dedicated to all the people who had passed away in avalanches, rock slides, and climbing accidents. It was incredibly sad and reminds you that while it’s a beautiful place it’s also a place that is unforgiving and can be dangerous. Some of the plaques were dated as late as 2003.
After we passed this section the rest of the hike was full of warm fuzzies! We got to cross lots of swing bridges and take in the mountains all covered in snow. The hike is one way, so when we got to the end point we had a lunch break at some picnic tables and explored a bit. A little way from the picnic tables we walked down to the glacial stream and saw a piece of floating glacier – Blue Ice! This was kind of sad and cool to see because this probably won’t be around much longer as it will melt away… I felt very special and privileged to see this.
The rest of the hike was awesome and when we were done we waited for the shuttle to Lake Tekapo (came to pick us up at 4) while we relaxed at the one and only cafe in the area.
Off to Lake Tekapo! We arrived around 6pm and settled into our cool and unique new place for the night. Because all the dorms were full we ended up ‘glamping’ ( glamorous camping). There were 5 beds in this tent outside the hostel all set up with blankets and pillows and little night lights for Rach and I! It was a little chilly at night but once you were all tucked in it was no problems snoozing.
We had a whole outdoor kitchen we could use with stoves and kettles and toasters and all kinds of pots and pans. Rachel and I have gotten to the point where we were totally sick of making pasta and trying to cook vegetables without seasonings or oils so we actually ended up buying some of that dehydrated hiking food that you just add water to for dinner – Honey Soy Chicken. I can’t say it was the best meal I’ve ever had but it was filling and I only needed water and to wait 10 minutes for it to ‘cook’.
After dinner Amanda Rach and I walked down the BEAUtiful jade Lake Tekapo to the iconic Church of The Good Shephard. This is a really cool place recommended to me by my dad – it was on the list of things I couldn’t miss in New Zealand. It was so beautiful especially to see as the sun was setting.
We relaxed here for a bit and then wandered back to the beach by the hostel/glampsite to watch the stars. Lake Tekapo is said to be one of the darkest places is the world so the star-gazing is amazing! There is a huge observatory up on the top of Mount John right by Lake Tekapo but it’s a bit of a hike and quite a lot of money so we decided to lie on the beach and look at the sky from there. We were lucky enough to have a clear sky and no moon so we could see all the stars perfectly. What a stunning night.
The next day we packed up and continued up the island to Christchurch! Our lovely friends in Invercargill Stacey and Dean set us up with a WWOOF (THE LAST ONE!!!!!) here with a friend of theirs, Diedre and Shawn. Diedre picked us up from the Canterbury Museum in the afternoon and took us back to her place. She showed us our room – not only was it an en suite, Rach and I had our own queensize beds to ourselves!
Our first night there we hung out with Deidre, Shawn and their 12 year old daughter, Emma, listening to her stories from school over a delicious meal of vegetarian lasagna and salad.
The next morning we worked on their garden – I dug and planted a hedge while Rach weeded and after that we helped plant a garden of native New Zealand greens! When we finished we had some homemade tomato soup and then Shawn and Diedre took us out for a nice hike near Lyttleton.
In the evening we had another great dinner with the family and they even made us a classic Kiwi dessert that we hadn’t tried yet; Pavolva, which is meringue with cream and fruits all over the top. It’s basically just a big wad of sugar but it was really tastey!
For our last morning with Diedre she drove us out to Castle Hill which is this really cool limestone rock reserve. We spent a while poking around the rocks and then checked out a cave stream nearby before heading back into town.
We packed up our gals Nel and Des and Diedre dropped us off at the University of Canterbury where we met up with a golden hawk friend of ours, Laura Mifflin. I know Laura from my roommate at Uni Lindsay – Lindsay and Laura danced together all through university. I found out in January that Laura was in Christchurch attending teachers college for a year. We connected and Laura was kind enough to let us stay at her place for a couple of days. On Friday night we grabbed a quick bite and then Laura took us out for the ultimate token Kiwi Experience – a Rugby Game!!! The Canterbury Cruisaders versus the Australian Force. The Cruisaders won and although I don’t know too much about rugby the game was really fun and exciting to watch because the atmosphere was so lively!
Today was a pretty relaxing day. We woke up and Laura cooked us an awesome breakfast of eggs, toast, blueberries and bacon (like the real crispy kind – in New Zealand their version of bacon is only peamale). After that we headed off to the Botanical Gardens to get in some fresh air and check out all the roses – I had no idea that there were so many different kinds!
Unfortunately it was a rather rainy dreary day so we escaped indoors to a little mall type thing where I was able to buy a new pair of jeans. I brought a really crappy pair of ripped $10.00 H&M jeans on the trip but the rips have gotten past the point of ‘trendy and socially acceptable’ to ‘you genuinely look like you need to buy a new pair of pants’.
For dinner we made a feast of nachos and salad and watched the most recent animated Disney film, Moana. I was stoked to see this because the film is New Zealand/French Polynesian Island based… it brings up a lot of the traditional Maori identifiers like Hakas, the fish hooks, connectivity to wild life and tattoos. I loved it! And the sound track was also really good – Laura and Rach serenaded me with the hums of Alesia Cara for the rest of the night!
Tomorrow is our last full day with Laura and then we head to our next host, Allan, who was a guest we met while we were WWOOFing at the Bed and Breakfast in Hokitika!
Sending love from Chch. ❤️