New Zealand: Southern Alps
January 1, 1970
by Anna Dreamer
New Zealand: Southern Alps.
Never thought that there was another Alps in the other part – upside down – on the Earth.
First time, I knew New Zealand was my sixteenths and from that age, I totally fall in love with its landscapes, very fast changing weather and ridiculously amazing beauty.
Living in Russia by the seaside for all my life, I have never seen mountains so close. That is why the most remembering sight from my New Zealand honeymoon trip was meeting with majestic Mount Cook surrounded by Southern Alps.
Crossing the Cook Strait. Picton.
We started our journey from the North Island of the country, crossed the Cook Strait by the ferry departed from modern metropolitan Wellington to the little cozy port town called Picton. Having a short tour, we mentioned the strong smell of the sea salt and freshly caught fish, lots of boats and maritime museum. When turned back we were amazed by the height of mountains far away in the horizon and quickly jumped into the bus, which brought us to Christchurch in few hours.
Kaikoura. Travelling by bus.
If you are driving on your own – it is easy to rent a car directly from one of the car rental companies inside the Picton Ferry Terminal or transport your car on the ferry from Wellington to Picton. The most important bus stop on the way to Christchurch must be the town Kaikoura with its significant view on the Pacific Ocean and the best option to buy some food or do banking if you need so. You should spend there your lunchtime having a picnic on the windy wild beach with lots of seagulls flying around. As the main road on Canterbury region of New Zealand runs along the coastline – be surprised by watching the relaxed seals having a nap just by the roadside.
There are many tours to beautiful Queenstown starting from Christchurch but just few of them runs through Southern Alps with the lunch at the foot of Mount Cook. As the time you are going to spend in the bus is quite long, you should be prepared to eat something on the way but the food should not exude the smell, as some drivers are very strict and better to ask even before buying a cup of coffee in another petrol station’s supermarket. The other thing is that the prices are cheaper in small towns and the bread from the local cafés smells like a real escape from the modern routine into the farming daily life and I highly recommend trying local food during your trip to taste the unforgettable soft fish and chips and drink natural milk from the alpine cows.
Famous mountain lakes: Tekapo and Pukaki.
Driving up to the Alps gave us few chances to see famous mountain lakes. The name of the first one is Tekapo, also known by one of the most photographed Church in New Zealand – Church of the Good Shepherd and bronze statue of Collie sheepdog. Take your time to get some pictures with your smiled faces there! The colour of the water was pure blue and seemed like the second sky underfoot. If you are the night sky lover, you can visit Mount John University Observatory and try your luck to count the stars.
The second lake on the way was Pukaki. After meeting with its stunning beauty and pearl-blue water, we turned right – away from the main road and closer to the Mountains. They seemed higher and higher with each turn. The road was tiny and empty with huge valleys on the both sides. It was so unique to feel yourselves as midgets surrounded by massive giants wearing white hats made by snow and sun.
“I wish I could climb them one day! To see what is there – on the other side of mountain peak!” I told to my hubby.
The Hermitage Hotel. Best lunch view ever.
We continued our trip until we reached the mythical The Hermitage Hotel to have a lunch with the best view in our lives.
One simple smile is not enough to see the real happiness from the face when you meet the Alps for the first time in your life. That is why I was smiling from my soul and taking too many pictures of surrounding until I stopped to feel my fingers and had my cheeks sored from that crazy smile.
The Hermitage Hotel has its own souvenir shop, supermarket and few restaurants. All the rooms and chalets have an unimaginable view to the mountains melted in the sunlight… It was so quiet and calm, with many birds flying around and we fed them with chocolate cookies, sharing the peaceful atmosphere of the place with its natural creatures.
We ate our lunch sitting outside, right in the New Zealand winter weather with the temperature around zero and no wind. It was the best cappuccino in my lifetime.
Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre.
The gorgeous statue of Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man who climbed the Everest, is located at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre and the place where we had our lunch was the point where Edmunds mountaineering days began.
We are still planning our next journey to visit that education centre with planetarium, museum and stargazing desk as well as take a helicopter tour to the lakes above the mountains started from Mount Cook small airport – Mt Cook ski planes and helicopters
I strongly advise you not to forget good sunglasses because of the strong sunlight in Alps. It is the brightest place I have ever visited! Most people cannot even imagine the royal greatness of the Mountains and the fresh cold air in that area. It seemed like I have only breathed with whole lungs when I was there.
New Zealand’s Southern Alps is the best place to explore the beauty of snow peaks and chance to spend weekend in the chalet at the valley formed by ancient glacier. There are no crowds of tourists or traffics. There are only your thoughts about being far away from all the World, night dark sky full of brightest constellations of the Southern Hemisphere and romantic mood of adventure.