Posted in New Zealand, Travel

The heart of NZ – Lake Tekapo, Mount Cook and Wanaka

Lake Tekapo

We’ve bought ourselves a guidebook, Rob’s made a play list, there’s pretty much only one road in NZ so we shouldn’t get lost, I think we’re ready, time to start the New Zealand road trip! Our first destination is Lake Tekapo. Only about 2 and a half hours from Christchurch, with a few stops along the way to make sure Susie didn’t over do it. The views along the way were amazing, huge rolling hills kept Lake Tekapo hidden until right at the last minute, what a sight! We were camping right next to it as well. We’d opted for a campsite with showers and a kitchen for our first night, got to enjoy the luxuries whilst we can because we’ll soon be making do with an empty field a drop loo. We set up camp, got out our flash new camping chairs and took in the view. Think we’re going to like New Zealand!


We went for a walk round the Lake edge and into town, honestly you can’t get over how blue the lake is, it practically sparkles. The Church of the good Sheppard provided a nice photo op before we picked up some supplies and headed back to the tent. In Australia some nights I wouldn’t even get my sleeping bag out the car, it was just too hot, definitely don’t think I’ll be having that problem this time round though. As soon as the sun set it was FREEZING. Joggers, jumper, socks and hat was just about enough to see us through the night but boy was my nose cold when we woke up.


We set the alarms nice and early so we could watch sunrise over the lake but the clouds were so thick we didn’t even realise when it finally rose! Back to the site we needed a bowl of porridge and $2 hot shower to thaw out enough to tackle the day. After that we took on the Mount John walk, a nice 3 hour loop along the lake and then up to the observatories. This part of New Zealand has some of the darkest skies in the world so makes for a good place to stick a few observatories, unfortunately entry into one was about $200 so we’ll just have to make do with admiring them from the outside. The top of the hill did give a cracking view over the lake though.

Sunrise was much more exciting before the sun rose
Top of Mount John, bit cloudy to see stars anyway!

With the rest of the day we went for a drive, saw some more cool views and chilled out by the lake. When the sun finally came out it was a scorcher of a day, warm enough to make us want to try a dip in the lake. Now the lake water is so blue because it’s melted straight off the glaciers, which are ice, which are very cold. Even when I dipped my toe in it took my breath away, but after 5 minutes of umm-ing and aah-ing I was shown up by a 5 year old kid so decided to take the plunge. Think my dip lasted all of 2 minutes but I did it and we even jumped in off the pontoon, head under and everything!


Mount Cook

After another bitter night’s sleep it was time to say goodbye to Tekapo and head on in search of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mount Cook. The first half of the drive was painless, the second half Susie decided she wasn’t fixed after all and started coughing and spluttering, a little poking around under the bonnet seemed to do the job but it’s only day 3 of the road trip, not ideal! Our campsite for the night was a field at the bottom of the mountains run by the council, you pop some money in an envelope, put it in the box with your reg on it and you’re good to go. Basic but good, they even had flushing toilets!

The sky was one big grey cloud when we arrived and we’d been warned that some people go to visit and never even see Mount Cook but by the time we’d had some lunch the blue skies were out and the sun was shining! We took the 3 hour Hooker Valley hike across the swing bridges and through the mountains until we reached the Hooker Lake, what a view. The grey glacier lake sits right in front of Mount Cook itself. Even though Mount Cook is the tallest at 12,000ft there’s about 20 other mountains in the same range that are over 10,000ft so they’re all pretty impressive.


After our hike we were feeling hungry so we took the hour walk into town to grab supplies ( we’re very reluctant to use the car unless we absolutely have to), turns out there isn’t actually much of a town. There’s no shops, no petrol stations, no pubs, just a few hotels, a school and a youth hostel. The hostel did have it’s own version of a shop, basically some reject tins of soup and some meat in the freezer. After living the previous day on a vegetarian diet (rice and beans, we’re on a budget!) we were determined to have some meat so we picked up some suspicious looking sausages and took the risk. They made a damn tasty tea actually, we cooked them up with beans and eggy bread, what a feast!



Because we were camping in a field there were no annoying campsite lights to ruin the stars and what a sky it was! Rob finally got his star picture! He’s been trying to figure it out since we started travelling but he’s finally cracked it, that’s his evenings sorted from here on out.


It was another bitter morning, too cold to even get undressed so we chucked everything in the boot and hit the road in our pj’s. We stopped via the 600 stair climb to the Tasman glacier, New Zealand’s longest glacier. With it being the middle of a kiwi summer the Tasman lake was pretty melty and only a few blocks of ice were left, but you could see the start of the Tasman glacier in the distance where it had carved through the mountains. We took another stop at Lake Pukaki and then hit the road on to Wanaka!



About 2 and a half hours from Mount Cook is the lake side town of Wanaka, we decided to treat ourselves to a campsite with showers again and pitched up at the Lake outlet campsite for a couple of nights. Once we were clean and fed we went to explore Wanaka. We found the most amazing vineyard perched on top of the hill over looking Wanaka and better yet they did free samples. We got to learn about and taste 6 of their most famous wines. I even drank some red and didn’t find it disgusting, travelling has changed me! We took a stroll round the gardens after it, honestly you can’t get enough of the view, it was amazing!
 Wanaka is such a pretty town, it’s set right on the Lake front which was absolutely buzzing with people taking a dip, I was still traumatized from my Lake Tekapo swim so decided to give it a miss! We wandered around the town for a while before heading back to the campsite to try and top up our tans by our lake front.dsc_0240

Finally we got a night warm enough to sleep all the way through! We planned to take a hike up to the Rob Roy glacier but soon found out that the whole track there was a gravel road, after a bit of quick maths we realised that averaging 10km an hour with 30km left to go was a bit of a waste of time so we settled on climbing Roy’s peak instead, much closer to town. We were oblivious to the sign on the way up that suggested it was around 6-7 hours return trip so we set out with our one bottle of water and a biscuit each. It was a bloody tough hike too, luckily we weren’t quite as slow as the sign suggested and we made it to the peak in 2 and a half hours. Our legs were in tatters by the top, fitbit reckons we’ve climbed 450 flights of stairs, not bad for a Saturday afternoon! The views at the top were worth it though, we could see across the whole lake right to the glaciers and it looked beautiful! After staggering back down the hill that was us done for the day, we had achey legs and I had the world’s biggest blister to now look after, a hot shower (heaven) some tea and we were ready for bed. Off to Queenstown in the morning to try our hand at some down hill go kart racing!



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