South Island, New Zealand: Part 1

Here I am still playing catch-up. Its summer and I’m in San Francisco, still on the road but making my way home. The past few months have been nothing short of amazing and I’m so excited to start sharing pictures with everyone.

We left off leaving Wellington, New Zealand – taking the ‘Inter-Islander Ferry’ to the South Island where a five day road trip to Queenstown was about to commence with my friend Will. Our stops included Picton, Nelson, Hokatika, Lake Tekapo, Mt Cook, and finally Queenstown. The ferry ride was about four hours and then we picked up a car and headed into the mountains of the South Island. Our first stop was Nelson, a beautiful town where some of my friends from New Zealand grew up. It was too short of a stay for in the morning we were up early to head over to the West Coast to stop in a town called Hokatika.

There isn’t really anything special about Hokatika except for the fact that the drive down was superbly stunning, crossing through mountains and then immediately having them plunge into a rugged coast line with extraordinarily blue water. The only other great thing about Hokatika (can you say it yet? Ho – Ka – TI – KA) is that it is one of the place where greenstone is produced.

Produced seems like the wrong word, but maybe harvested? Carved into jewelry? Both are true, but either way lets move on from there. Greenstone is very similar to Jade and it is very prominent within the Maori culture. It was used for jewelry as well as weapons. It is very beautiful and very strong. The greens can differ hugely, ranging from sea green to a deep emerald green to a very, well, green stone. What I love most about the green stone is that there is a lot of tradition and symbolism seeped into them. They are usually carved in about 1 of 5 shapes that symbolize different meanings. They vary from strength and courage to safe passage over water or friendship or new beginnings. Almost every kiwi person I know or who has been to New Zealand has one. The catch is though is that you are not supposed to buy it for yourself. Call me a stickler for tradition – but I didn’t get one for myself because of that.

Will and I then drove down to a lake called Lake Tekapo.  I was told that it was one of the bluest lakes you will ever see in your life and it’s one of the best places to stargaze in New Zealand. I agreed with the star gazing and we were fortunate enough to have a crystal clear night – but the lake – maybe it was cloudy and that made all the difference, but honestly I wasn’t that impressed. The following day we shuttled a german couple from our hostel with us to our next destination which was Mt Cook. Now the lake that came before Mt Cook – THAT was a BLUE lake. Because of the glaciers surrounding the area the lake is composed of glacial runoff and therefore filled with what’s called glacial flour. It gives the water this impossible almost neon blue chalky look. The sun came out for us and absolutely illuminated the water and the golden grass. It was truly gorgeous.

The german couple had plans to hike up to a hut on a neighboring mountain to stay in a cabin over night. New Zealand has a whole chain of public use huts created by the Department of Conservation. Sounds a bit Orwellian but really it’s a wonderful program that creates and sustains all the amazing hiking trails all over this country and builds huts/cabins for people to stay in so there is less impact from overnight campers. Will and I decided to join them as far as a look out point to enjoy a day hike. The lonely planet even described the hike as – for the energetic… I will now think twice about what “energetic hikes” truly mean. After half an hour of a lovely meandering path through a valley the path reaches the side of a mountain.The trail turns into a winding, steep staircase that we climbed mercilessly for the next 2 hours.  Think of Frodo climbing up that creepy staircase in the last movie of the lord of the rings, and that was almost us. Except it was a gloriously sunny day and there was no giant spider waiting at the top.  Don’t dwell on this analogy if you don’t get it – just know that these stairs were steep. It was like being stuck on the worst stair master of your life.

However, once we got to our plateau/stopping point the view was breath taking and worth every painful step. Our german friend’s continued onto their hut and Will (literally) skipped down the mountain while I hobbled slowly down.  The hostel we stayed in at Mt Cook felt like being back in summer camp again. All log cabin style and bunk beds. The next day we drove on down to Queenstown to spend st. patricks day. Queenstown is a beautiful mountain town nestled against some rugged mountains called the Remarkables or the ‘remarks’ for short and a large large lake. It is known as the adventure capital of New Zealand. I think my parents and I proved that to be true.

And now the photos to accompany the tale…

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Jumping Will.

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West Coast of the South Island

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Pancake Rocks

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Lake Tekapo

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Long Exposure Fun

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This how you skype your parents from NZ

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The drive into the Mt Cook Valley

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Mt Cook

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Insane Staircase

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Just another day at the office.

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Lunch Spot

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Most Amazing stars – the picture still cannot do it justice.

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One thought on “South Island, New Zealand: Part 1

  1. How good is lake Tekapo? and the cook valley is amazing. I have some pics from a climbing trip in Mt Cook NP on my site. Feel free to have a look. Love it

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