Home > Uncategorized > Day 5: Mount Cook and on to Christchurch

Day 5: Mount Cook and on to Christchurch

We finally finished our last night of camping, if you could call it that. We slept in the car, this time with no problems in terms of bugs or being too hot or too cold. It was actually quite comfortable. We woke up in the morning a bit after sunrise, grabbed our things and drove out to the town of Aoraki, the town at the base of all the mountains. (Of course, we did stop for a moment to admire the amazing scenery around where we camped. We didn’t get too much a chance to see it in the dark the night before.)

We got to Aoraki, which was really a one-room schoolhouse (with 4 children playing out in the playground), a hotel, and a few dozen houses. It was tiny!

We made our way over to the hiking trail we wanted: The Red Tarns. We had found a map of hiking trails in the area and were trying to pick one. We really didn’t know which to pick, so we found the one that looked the most interesting. The Red Tarns, at least on the map, had over a dozen switchbacks, meaning it probably climbed way up one of the mountains.

And so it did.

The path was pretty badly marked in the beginning, and we almost ended up in the town reservoir without realizing it. After we crossed over a small creek, though, it was a straight shot from there, and wrong turns weren’t really an option.

The path was almost entirely stairs, up the side of one of the mountains. It took us about an hour to climb to the top. We went at a brisk pace, but took a few breaks nonetheless. The weather was perfect–warm and sunny, but cool enough that I was comfortable in a long sleeve t-shirt (especially when the wind would pick up).

We didn’t pass anyone until we got to the top of the mountain. Even then, we barely noticed the couple that came by us as we stared in amazement at the sight before us. In the distance were all of the mountains and their glaciers, with Mount Cook towering above the rest. You could just barely make out the glacial ponds and the streams that flowed out of them and into the lake.

As we continued to follow the path a bit further (which wasn’t finished at the top of the mountain), we ran into the red tarns, the namesake of this path. The red tarns are ponds that are, as the name implies, red. While the water itself isn’t red, there is a plant that grows along the top, almost like a vine, that makes the whole thing seem red. It was absolutely wild, and brought about my absolute favorite picture from this trip (if not of all time).

After admiring this for a while and considering whether to climb the rest of the way up the mountain to the peak (which was at least as far as we had already come, if not more), we decided to head back down. We ate a quick lunch, filled up on water, and took off.

We were headed to Christchurch. It was a good 4-5 hour drive, but we had some time to stop along the way at a few notable towns or other interesting sights. Still, the terrain was getting more and more calm, much less interesting than the west coast. (Note: By “less interesting,” I mean it wasn’t as absolutely mind-blowing as the rest of the stuff we’ve seen. It’s funny how relative these things can be. Despite the fact that the sights on the way to Christchurch were probably more breathtaking than anything I had seen prior to New Zealand, I wasn’t overly impressed by them merely because of what else I had seen on this trip.)

The one area that was worth stopping was Lake Tekapo. It was a little town set on the coast of (you guessed it) Lake Tekapo. It was more a passing through point for most people, where they may fill up on gas but nothing much else. Instead, we parked, grabbed a cup of coffee, and walked down by the water.

The water of Lake Tekapo is the most electric blue I have ever seen–it almost looks fake. Looking at my pictures, you might think that I completely altered the colors in photoshop, but I swear to you that that is the true color of the water (at least, as true as my camera can capture it).

Lake Tekapo was also up in the rankings for windiest location I’ve ever been, probably tied with Mount Cook and the hike we had attempted to do the night before, only to be thwarted by the wind.

Did I mention New Zealand is windy? And this is just the summer.

We walked over to the Church of the Good Shepherd, some sort of historic church right on the beach. At first, I refused to go in just due to the pure chintziness and touristiness of it all. There were tons of Asian tour buses pulled up (more than I’d seen anywhere else), and they were all being very obnoxious, rude, and pulled in on themselves. They were completely disrespectful, not only of the church, but of the country as a whole.

When I finally did go inside, though, I understood why it was so historic. It was tiny, with room for about 20 people. But it felt like a real church. I have never actually been in a church that made me feel at peace so much–most of the large churches, while impressive, are a little overbearing and communicate the feeling that churches in the Middle Ages wanted: “We are powerful, and you are small.” This was totally different, and I liked it.

We got back to the car, and kept driving. We were getting more and more towards civilization, and it was making me more and more uncomfortable. I was really missing the wide opened roads and the scenery we had before. It wasn’t that I was getting nervous about driving on busy streets again. I was just uncomfortable with the idea of joining mainstream society. I think I need to spend more time camping and out in nature in the future. It was so amazingly calming.

We got to Christchurch, checked into our hostel (8 people to a room), and grabbed some dinner. We went to Mum’s, a Japenese and Korean restaraunt that was out of this world. I ordered BBQ squid, and it was out of this world. I don’t know if I was just incredibly hungry, but it was one of the best meals that I’ve had in a long time. There was so much food, but I had to eat it all because it was so tasty.

We finished out the night by walking up to the main square of Christchurch (which has a name that I now forget). There were two guys there, one playing guitar, and one playing trumpet. They were phenomenal. I forgot about everything else for a while and just listened to what they had to say with their music. They did a little of everything: some jamming, some jazz, and even some Coldplay.

While Lena continued to listen to them, I gave Kat a call and talked to her for a little bit with the musicians still playing in the background. It was very relaxing, both the music and being in the big open town-center after all the hustle and bustle that the rest of the city felt.

I went back, hopped in bed, put in headphones, put a shirt over my eye to block out the overhead light that was still on, and fell asleep.

PS: I just realized that none of my captions uploaded with my pictures, which sucks. I had all these interesting stories written into the captions (actually putting a backstory behind each of them). Because of the frustrating Internet situation here, though, I wasn’t able to do that. I may go talk to IT to see if there’s a way around it, but I kind of doubt it. So be prepared for captionless pictures for the duration of my trip.

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  1. March 11, 2010 at 3:03 am

    Still spectacular. Love your blogs!

  2. February 11, 2013 at 2:48 am

    I blog as well and I am crafting a little something comparable to this
    excellent blog post, “Day 5: Mount Cook and on to Christchurch I’m No Superman”. Do you care if I reallywork with a little of your personal tips? Thanks for your effort ,Brenda

  1. April 10, 2010 at 10:30 pm
  2. July 15, 2010 at 1:41 pm

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