It has been a little over a week since we crossed the Tasmanian Sea and flew from Cairns to Christchurch, New Zealand. Since then we have seen many, many mountains, huge and beautiful lakes, Lord of the Rings locations and stayed at the only castle in New Zealand. In other words: time to catch up!
This new journey started around midnight at Christchurch airport on January 8th. We took a cab to our hotel, where we were unfortunately greeted the next morning by workers in the garden taking out the fence. So the night was a bit shorter then expected, but we got up and decided to go to the botanic gardens to have a nice breakfast over there. A good choice! After that we walked around the gardens and explored the city. Christchurch was actually hit by major earthquakes in 2011, and they have been working hard since then to literally rebuild the city. They are making a lot of progress, because some of the temporary sights mentioned in our guide had already been taken down and replaced by new actual buildings. We still got to visit the church that is mainly built from cardboard. Quite amazing, you don’t even notice it until you take a closer look from the inside. All in all Christchurch is a town with a small city centre, that is nice to walk around for a day – or to take a Lime! No, New Zealand did not replace its national kiwi for a lime, ‘Limes’ are e-scooters that you can find all around town and can activate with an app. A very fun way to get around! Just take a look:
After two days of Christchurch, nature was calling. We booked ourselves into a motel in Twizel, a 45-minute drive from Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park. Actually, all things and places here have an English and Maori name and both are always mentioned. New Zealand is actually called Aotearoa, which means the long white cloud. This was the name of the canoe of the Polynesian explorer Kupe, who discovered New Zealand and named it after his boat. I discovered a great podcast that tells you more about New Zealand’s history and Kupe if you are interested.
But back to Mount Cook! Or more precisely, our journey there. Because that brought us to Lake Tekapo, which is not just a (very) pretty sight, but also our first Lord of the Rings location!
This lake was actually used for Lake Town (such an original name..) in the first Hobbit movie. Can you spot the differences?
Unfortunately most locations were only used as a background and all the beautiful castles, townships etc were montaged onto that background. So even while looking at the video when standing right before a location will ony do so much for recognizability. Nevertheless, we intend to visit as many as possible, so more on that in the future! Oh and for those of you who were wondering: no we did not see any Hobbits, only bunnies – even cuter if you ask me!
After our little detour and walk along the lake, we arrived at our motel from where we set off the following day to Mount Cook Village to start walking. After having a hearty breakfast with bacon and eggs at the village, we felt energised and decided start from the village (instead of driving to the closest parking lot), start with the Kea Point track and then continue with the Hooker Valley track. Well, that kept us busy al day!
Somehow we had made some miscalculations regarding how long everything would take… So we brought lunch and muesli bars and fruit and water, just not enough water. So about half an hour before the finish line my water was all gone. Thankfully mr. Scientist had realised our miscalculation a bit earlier, and still had some left. However, after marvelling at the glacier lake at the end of our track, we walked back to the closest water point in about half the time it took us on the way up. Safe to say: we survived and were still able to enjoy the beautiful walk. And as a bonus we we now know how the hobbits must have felt, because the mountains they were wandering around were actually these same Southern Alps of which Mount Cook / Aoraki is a part!