Welcome to part 2 of my epic ramble about our trip to New Zealand. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, just do that real quick then pop back over here…don’t worry, I’ll wait… … … … okay, ready? Let’s pick up where we left off…
The middle leg of our trip included Lake Wanaka and the Twizel/Mount Cook/Lake Tekapo area. Queenstown was exhilarating but I would say the time we spent in these two places were likely my favorite. And it mostly boils down to the fact that we had a great fellowship with our hosts in both locations (see what I did there? tying it back to the title? just give me the Pulitzer already).
One of our close friends here in Munich is from New Zealand and her parents have a place in Lake Wanaka. Naturally, we invited ourselves to hang out with them even though they had only met us twice before (we are the worst).
And this is how wonderful they are… they ended up selling their place in Wanaka in October but they still had us come stay with them at their friends’ home, who are also terrific and lovely people. They took us touring around the town, to some yummy cafes, hiking (hungover) above the lake, and even drove us 45 minutes out of the way so that I could see ‘the blue pools’ but are actually green (Instagram told me it was a must-do but Instagram is a liar). We had such a great time and so many laughs and will be forever grateful for their kindness, generosity, and hospitality. I have a feeling this won’t be the last time we impose ourselves upon them (they are probably deleting my phone number as they read this).
We really did not want to leave Wanaka but the journey had to continue. The next stop on the tour was Twizel…and I bet some Kiwis are like ‘um why in the world would you go to Twizel?’
It is one of those super small towns in the middle of nowhere that has nothing to do and was only created when they were building the hydro-power station. When that was done, they were going to tear the town down but the people living there liked it so much they kept it. And you know what? I totally get why. The town has these beautiful mountains as a backdrop, a few good restaurants (though I didn’t have a bad meal the entire trip, let’s be honest), and is the perfect homebase for exploring nearby Mt. Cook and Lake Tekapo.
Quick detour: If you ever find yourself in this area, please message me and I will send you a link to the best Airbnb of all time. Your hosts are Jeanette and Bruce and not only are they the nicest people alive but they also have a free range chicken farm, will make you delicious eggs for breakfast, drive you to the area where they filmed the Pellanor Fields scenes from the Return of the King, and tell you the best stories. Stories about how Bruce took two eggs from a goose nest on his way back from a fishing trip and the one egg that hatched is now a goose that thinks it’s a chicken because it was raised by hens. Or how he stole two turkeys from a friend’s turkey farm under the cover of darkness armed with only his wits and a sack. I know he sounds like a maniac but trust me, talk to him for 10 minutes and you will be laughing your butt off.
As I mentioned above, Twizel is great if you want to check out the nearby Mount Cook, the highest mountain in New Zealand. There are several treks and hikes you can do but we took the easy way out and did the Hooker Valley Track, which is a 2.5 hour (round trip) flat walk through a valley overlooking glacial lakes. It had these incredible views of glaciers and icebergs but you know what we didn’t have a view of? Flippin’ Mt. Cook – aka the whole reason for driving out there! There was a stubborn cloud covering it – and it just would not burn off all day. In the pictures below, use your imagination and pretend that behind that sea of gray at the top, there is a gigantic mountain.
As if we hadn’t seen enough lakes, we headed to Lake Tekapo the next day where I, again, dragged Jerry on a hike. We did the peninsula hike up to the summit of Mount John, which started off as a nice leisurely stroll along the coast before going straight uphill into the relentless wind. I literally felt like we were walking but not going anywhere for a good half hour. This would not have been so bad except we could see there was a storm approaching from a distance and we were trying to reach the café at the top before we got drenched. Luckily we made it in time and promptly rewarded ourselves with ham sandwiches and brownies.
Even if you don’t have time for the hike, I definitely recommend at least stopping by Lake Tekapo at some point. Both it and its neighbor, Lake Pukaki, are this unreal color of turquoise blue, which Google says is created by rock flour from surrounding glaciers. Like the rest of New Zealand, pictures don’t do it justice and it’s just something you have to see in person.
In the next and final installment, we get our nerd on with a Lord of the Rings tour, check out how hard it is for a city to recover from a devastating earthquake, and learn why kayaking should be considered the ultimate test of a marriage.
PS: as we left Twizel and set out for Christchurch, we finally got see the elusive Mt. Cook (naturally that bastard decided to show up on our last day there).