Inland, up on the plateau of the Mackenzie Country, we suddenly came face to face with the incredible colour of Lake Tekapo, which together with barren hillside around create a strange landscape. This greenish colour remembered us so well of the lakes in the Parque Nacional Los Glaciares in South Patagonia. Because of the ongoing drought in the south of New Zealand, the landscape shows large patches that look parched.
Although it was off season, the search for budget accommodation was nerve racking and finally brought us to the village of Twizel near Lake Pukaki. There, at the comfortable “High Country Holiday Lodge” we spent a few nights, about 60 kilometres from where we had planed to stay! The reason for this high demand was a rowing regatta whose participants had booked up every budget accommodations in this area.
The main attraction in the area is Mount Cook, the highest mountain in Australasia. It is therefore considered a must to visit it up close, which means driving up to Mount Cook Village and then walking for an hour. Of course there are more challenging treks and mountaineering in this region, but we stuck to the easy option…
The trek is extremely simple, like walking through a park. The landscape around is nice, but once you get to the view point, it seems as if you are looking straight into an open coal pit with majestic Mount Cook in the background. It took some manoeuvring to take nice photos of the very mountain.
On the way back, we sneaked into the famous and impressive Hermitage Hotel. However, we wondered if the view was really worth all that money.
While heading towards the east coast again, we shopped great salmon sashimi at a local fish farm and visited a reserve where black stilts are being bred. These beautiful black birds with their incredible long red legs are endemic birds of New Zealand but became almost extinct due to the many imported predators. Lake Ohau was another place we stopped not far from Twizel, amazingly blue coloured like all the other lakes, but what struck us most was how quiet it was there.
Apart from our trips to various lakes, we rolled past endless pastures dotted with greyish woolly sheep. In case we have not mentioned it yet, there are 40 million of them in Kiwi-Land, 10 times more than humans…