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January 25, 2002  (Hokitika, New Zealand)

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The Southern Alps and Mt. Cook

I spent a few days in the very pleasant town of Geraldine getting caught up with my website, then the skies cleared, so I headed back down to the Southern Alps to see Mount Cook National Park.  Not surprisingly, Mount Cook, the tallest peak in New Zealand at about 11,000', is located here and I'm really glad I waited until the sun came out to visit.  The campground -- like most other New Zealand campgrounds, just a grassy field without many facilities and no picnic tables, but very cheap -- was really packed, but I camped here anyway because the alpine surroundings were just so darn beautiful.

 

I made the 4-hour hike up to Hooker Glacier the next day, during which I passed approximately one-half of the entire population of Japan.  Once I got up to the glacier, I discovered that it was pretty dirty and not that interesting, but the hike through the alpine meadows was amazing and I was surrounded on all sides not only by Japanese camera-toting tourists, but also by cirques, aretes, moraines, and all kinds of other glacial landforms that I learned about at the University of Wisconsin.  If you like glacial landforms like I do, Mt. Cook National Park is a terrific place to visit, even if you're not Japanese.

 

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Above left:  After two rainy days in Geraldine, the skies cleared so I retraced my steps and headed back down to the "Southern Alps."  This time I could actually see them.

Above center:  The bright blue waters of Lake Tekapo.  That color is from the glacial "flour," or ground rock that's in the water.  This part of the central South Island is really dry, though the area a few miles west of here gets several feet of rain each year.  Talk about a rainshadow!

Above right:  I've seen tour buses everywhere on this trip.  There are LOTS of tourists in New Zealand now... including me.

 

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Above left:  Driving up to Mt. Cook, the tallest peak in New Zealand.  Lake Pukaki is in the distance.

Above center:  After I spent a month in New Zealand, the weather was finally nice enough so that I could set up my tent and camp.  This is in Mt. Cook National Park.

Above right:  The view from my campsite at Mt. Cook National Park.

 

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Above left:  On the way up to Hooker Glacier; this is one of many swing bridges that I've hiked across during the past few weeks.  They're a lot of fun.

Above center:  The Mueller River area was covered by a giant sheet of ice only a few hundred years ago.

Above right:  Flowers on the trail.

 

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Above left:  The dirty Hooker Glacier (right) and Mt. Cook.  Note the icebergs floating in the lake.

Above right:  Mt. Cook, at just over 11,000 feet, is about as high as Oregon's Mt. Hood.  It's also at about the same latitude, around 45 degrees.

 

From Glaciers to Jungles... and Sandflies

After saying goodbye to Mount Cook National Park that afternoon, I drove south to Wanaka (rhymes with "Monica"), which is a lakeside resort town that's something like Queenstown but, fortunately, is a bit more relaxed.  The place was pretty packed, though, and after scrambling around for a half-hour, I got the last motel room in town, a skill that I've become quite adept at.  I liked Wanaka, but think I would like it a lot more in the spring or fall when it isn't so darn crowded.  

 

After visiting the famed Wanaka Air Museum the next morning and seeing my fill of P-51's, Spitfires, and other fascinating aircraft, I headed on to New Zealand's west coast where I stumbled across the pleasant, sleepy town of Haast, near the coast.  The drive between inland Wanaka and coastal Haast is quite amazing because within a distance of about 50 miles, you travel from a very dry grassland area through a steamy, tropical jungle and then out to the beach.  Surprisingly enough, the skies here on the west coast -- the wettest part of New Zealand -- were actually clear.  This area averages around 250 inches of rain a year, about as wet as Ketchikan, Alaska, so I was pretty lucky to see the sun.  I wasn't planning to stay in Haast, but I liked the area so much that I got a room there for the night at a backpackers (i.e., hostel).  

 

As I quickly discovered, the west coast of New Zealand is a wonderful place but, as I also discovered, the sandflies here think so too.  I was planning to stroll leisurely along the beach that afternoon and watch the sunset, but the swarms of biting sandflies drove me batty so I beat a quick retreat to the backpackers and took refuge in my room.  A sandfly is about half the size of a housefly but bites like a mosquito and, as I learned, they're all over the west coast.  I'm not sure why there aren't any sandflies in the U.S., but I'm really glad they've decided to stay here in New Zealand because they drove me absolutely nuts. 

 

I wised up the next morning and, anticipating a long drive up the coast, put on jeans instead of the shorts I'd been wearing the past few days and wore a long shirt over my t-shirt.  And I also put on LOTS of insect repellent.  I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid.

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Above left:  In Wanaka, I got the very last motel room in town, once again.  Wanaka is a nice town but it's really crowded in the summer time.

Above center:  Waterskiing on Lake Wanaka.

Above right:  The Warbirds Air Museum in Wanaka is a pretty cool place to spend a few hours.

 

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Above left:  The next day, driving west on Highway 6 heading to the coast.

Above center:  Beautiful Lake Hawea.

Above right:  Lunch time at Lake Wanaka.  It's really dry here but shortly after leaving Lake Wanaka, I entered a humid jungle.  From desert to jungle in 10 miles -- typical in New Zealand.

 

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Above left:  Another day, another hike, another swing bridge.  This is on the way to the "Blue Pools" on the Makarora River.

Above center:  Ferns are everywhere in New Zealand.

Above right:  I finally reached the Blue Pools... and was greeted by lots of biting sandflies, so my stay here was pretty brief.

 

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Above left:  Thunder Falls and the Haast River.

Above right:  I won't even ask.

 

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Above left:  That afternoon, I pulled into the small, sleepy town of Haast on the west coast and stayed at a "backpackers" (or hostel).  There are hundreds of backpackers around New Zealand.  Backpackers have bunk beds in dorm rooms for around US$8 a night and most also have private rooms, which run around US$20 a night.

Above center:  My room at the Wilderness Backpackers.  Not quite as nice as a motel room but a lot cheaper.

Above right:  After shooting 3,873 pictures during the last five weeks, this is probably how I look to every New Zealander.

 

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Above left:  I drove up the rainy and remote west coast of New Zealand the next morning.  They measure rainfall here in meters.

Above center:  A tight fit.

Above right:  The Fox Glacier is surrounded on three sides by a dense jungle.  Moving at about 3 feet a day, it's one of the fastest moving glaciers in the world.

 

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Above left:  The crowded trail up to the Fox Glacier.  I ran into my Israeli hitchhiking friend Idit here and got caught up with her.

Above center:  Here's the glacier's terminus.  That tunnel is about 15 feet high.

Above right:  The Franz Josef Glacier, a few miles north of the Fox Glacier.

 

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Above left:  I stayed that night at the Kiwi Motel in Hokitika, a typical motel in New Zealand:  about 10 rooms, family-owned, full kitchen, and free laundry facilities... and a free pint of milk.  All for about US$28 a night.

Above right:  Quite possibly the world's largest sheep.

 

 

Next News

February 2, 2002 -- Part 1  (Taupo, New Zealand)

 

 

Previous News

January 20, 2002  (Geraldine, New Zealand)

January 16, 2002  (Te Anau, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002  -- Part 2  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 12, 2002  -- Part 1  (Dunedin, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 2  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

January 1, 2002 -- Part 1  (Christchurch, New Zealand)

December 24, 2001  (Wellington, New Zealand)

December 20, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

December 16, 2001  (Auckland, New Zealand)

December 14, 2001  (Aitutaki, Cook Islands)

December 10, 2001  (Rarotonga, Cook Islands)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bellingham, Washington)

December 3, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bellingham, Washington)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 3  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 18, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

October 6, 2001  (Fort Lincoln State Park, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 2  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 30, 2001 -- Part 1  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

September 15, 2001  (Bismarck, North Dakota)

August 30, 2001  (Webster, South Dakota)

August 18, 2001  (Watertown South Dakota)

August 17, 2001  (Walnut Grove, Minnesota)

August 14, 2001  (Minneapolis, Minnesota)

August 10, 2001 (Battle Creek, Michigan)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 2)

August 8, 2001  (12 Days in Syracuse: Part 1)

August 6, 2001  (Manlius, New York)

July 23, 2001  (Middleton, Massachusetts)

July 22, 2001  (Boston, Massachusetts)

July 20, 2001  (Pomfret, Connecticut)

July 18, 2001  (Denton, Maryland)

July 16, 2001  (Cumberland, Virginia)

July 14, 2001  (Roanoke, Virginia)

July 9, 2001  (Sevierville, Tennessee)

July 8, 2001  (Fontana Lake, North Carolina)

July 5, 2001  (Manchester, Tennessee)

June 30, 2001  (Hohenwald, Tennessee)

June 29, 2001  (Corinth, Mississippi)

June 27, 2001  (Natchez, Mississippi)

June 24, 2001  (Austin, Texas)

June 20, 2001  (Canyon de Chelly, Arizona)

June 18, 2001  (Clay Canyon, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 2  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 15, 2001 -- Part 1  (Zion Nat'l Park, Utah)

June 14, 2001  (San Diego, California)

June 11, 2001  (San Jose, California)

June 2, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

May 19, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 30, 2001  (Hillsboro, Oregon)

April 19, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

April 5, 2001  (Bellingham, Washington)

 

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Home > Travels (2001-02) > New Zealand Trip > January 25, 2002