The Eagle has Landed...
07.03.2013 - 22.03.2013 20 °C
On Thursday 7th March he arrived in one piece after 36 hours of no sleep and having lost his luggage. But after a beer and a shot of Jameson duty free, all was well with Colm!
Day two and after a good night's sleep we headed out to explore the post-earthquake Christchurch. About 70% of the city centre is, or will be, razed after the earthquake. Seeing the city in it's current state is definitely sobering (even for us!...). But they have made the best of things and have made very imaginative use of old shipping containers now housing trendy coffee shops, galleries and designer clothes stores. Very imaginative and funky. Had to buy some new clothes for Colm while we waited for his bags to be located!!! Of course this suited us also and we all "acquired some new clothes".
We headed to the coastal suburb of Sumner (similar to Killiney) where we saw designer houses teetering on the edges of cliffs. We walked up the Flowers Walk, past some fabulous architect designed houses, many of which were boarded up due to the earthquake. The views from the top are amazing in this beautiful city.
2 days later, having collected Colm's bag which was lost somewhere in the middle east, we head south and west via Fairlie, towards Mount Cook, NZ's highest peak. On the way we stopped at the ridiculously turquoise blue waters of Lake Tekapo where we walked for a few hours in the forest and along the lake side. That night we stayed in a cabin at the bottom of the mountain along the edge of lake Pukaki at the base of Mt Cook. The next morning we took a boat ride out onto the glacial lake at the base of Mt Cook. The glacier had calved a massive berg the previous week so we were privileged to see the aftermath floating in the lake. A smaller berg had just rolled over so we could see the golf ball like surface which was still glacial blue before the sun light turned it white. In the afternoon we hiked to the bottom of Mt Cook via 3 suspension bridges and bathed our feet in the freezing glacial waters.
Leaving Mt Cook we travelled to Alexandra via the town of Cromwell where we found street names such as Erris, Killala, Killarney, Sligo etc. Apparently the second surveyor had a sense of fairness and decided to call the newer streets by names in the south of Ireland to balance out all the northern names given by the first surveyor! In Alexendra we did a 45km cycle on an old railway route which was built to carry gold to the coast. Thankfully it was mostly downhill but fair play to Colm for his stamina as I was out of breath at the end.
After Alexandra we headed south east towards Dunedin where we stayed in cabin on the beautiful Otago penisula. There we saw furred seals, yellow eyed penguins and albatrosses, all within a few kilometres of our campsite.
After Dunedin we headed on a long drive via the Catlins forest and Invercargill to the town of Manipouri in Westlands. This area is located in the south west of the South Island and has no roads to speak of. It is totally impenetrable due to the vast mountain ranges there. Very similar to the south west of Chile. After some nice walks in Manipouri and drowning the shamrock on a very wet St Patrick's Day, we headed towards Milford Sound, the only road to the coast in this part of NZ. The sound, which is really a fjord, is spectacular. We took a 2 hour cruise out the fjord and were rewarded with unimaginably steep cliffs which take your breath away, and also took Colm's hat away! Oh well, it was worth it! On the way back we had to stop at the sign for Hollyford Village, founded in the 1830s by a man who hailed from the very same Tipperary mountain village where Colm was born.
After Milford we headed toward Lake Wanaka in the middle of the island where we did a 4 hour hike towards Mt Aspiring and the hanging glaciar of Rob Roy. Fantastic scenery and walking amongst the native beech forest with cattle crossing the vast glacial spillways. Real cowboy country.
Another day and another journey, this time through the wilderness and forests towards the west coast and to the Fox Glaciar where we walked to the face of the glaciar. Then today we climbed to another glacier - the Franz Josef glacier.