Up, Up, And Away...

Trip Start Jan 15, 2011
Trip End Mar 19, 2011

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Where I stayed
White Horse Hill Campgrounds

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Friday, January 21, 2011

In the early morning light we both experienced the joys of the Onuku Farm Hostel outdoor shower stalls. They were enclosed, private, and had gas heated water. Definitely the nicest outdoor shower I've ever experienced. The birds sang to us as we scrubbed away.

Up earlier than the rest of the backpackers, we ate a quiet breakfast of fresh oatmeal, raisins, and brown sugar. This was to be our daily breakfast as it is filling, fast, and scrumptious – not to mention easy to clean. We struck up a conversation with a German woman who was nearing the end of her biking trip around New Zealand. She was traveling alone and carting all her own food and equipment as she cycled around both islands. Very impressive.

Alas, it was time for us to depart. Now, you may remember a question was posed a couple of days ago. Would we or would we not? It'd been roaming through our minds and we’d finally decided on an answer – Let’s go for it! Despite the long day ahead of us, we were going to stop in Christchurch to see at least one act in the Buskers Festival, dammit! We hadn’t come all this way to miss out on something so unique! As it turned out, we ended up seeing three acts, and it was totally worth it.

First up was Pedro Tochas, who despite the rain (all the acts were outdoors) put on a lively show. He was a clown from Portugal who pantomimed a medieval love story with balloon creations and crowd participation. Very entertaining. Next up were the Blackstreet Boyz from America. Amazing dancers with hilarious jokes, which were very America-centric, I should mention. Katie and I were getting every one. The Kiwis? Not so much. We were laughing at every punch line, and I have a big laugh. Suffice to say, we were getting looks. To top it off, a bird kept swooping in and flying around the circular stage. This prompted one of the Blackstreet Boyz to act as though it was a trained bird on a leash. He’d mime pulling the string in and out based on the bird’s proximity, and then letting it go when the bird flew away. Okay, it doesn’t sound very funny, but it was. Last, but definitely not least, we saw the Daredevil Chicken Club who were also from the United States. They were hysterical!! A married pair of magicians/circus performers. The wife had a heavy affected Russian accent while the husband was an American with homosexual tendencies. He kept having to keep his wife off the male volunteers, and she had to do likewise. Meanwhile, they were boasting their amazing skills and artistry but could never quite coordinate their timing. In the end, they actually performed some cool stunts and magic tricks, all the while having the audience in stitches. They were extremely talented and our favorite of the three acts we saw.

After plopping down some money for a last minute purchase of fish and chips, we headed out of the city and drove inland. The sky was grey; the rain, sporadic. Nevertheless, the landscape was beautiful and inspired us to listen to the soundtrack to "The Lord of the Rings" (did you have any doubt?).

Our first stop was at Lake Tekapo, which is the home of the Church of the Good Shepard. It was a very small but extremely picturesque church right on the lakeside. Inside was calm and peaceful until a bus full of Japanese tourists came bustling through like a herd of paparazzi. Cameras flashing non-stop. We side-stepped our way out after the invasion.

Let me take a moment here to comment on the fact that so far on our tour through New Zealand 90% of the people we’ve interacted with have been foreigners – as in foreign to New Zealand. They’ve been from England, Germany (lots!), Japan, China, etc. It’s like this country is populated by foreign travelers! It doesn’t bother us in the least. We find it rather interesting and fun running into so many different people. It’s a great mix of cultures. It just goes to show how important tourism is to New Zealand’s economy. Second only to sheep, I’m sure.

Our next point of interest was Lake Pukaki. Both of these lakes reflected the purest, palest blue you’ve ever seen. That blue is due to glacial flour (in America it is called glacial dust), which comes from the glaciers up in the mountains grinding the rock below into a fine powder. That "flour" runs off into the streams and down into these lakes. The fine particles of the dust absorb all the colors of the spectrum except for blue, thus the blue color remains and glows in the light of the sun. We took some amazing pictures at the lakeside and both thought the landscape couldn’t get any better. We were wrong.

Instead of camping on the edge of Lake Pukaki as planned, we decided to go all the way into the Aoraki / Mt. Cook area and camp at the White Horse Hill Campground. Man, did we make the right choice! The clouds were low and misty as we drove up and in, finally arriving in a valley nestled within a horseshoe of mountains. We kept taking photo after photo of the amazing landscape, spotted over with sheep and cows and the occasional rabbit. At the end of the road rested The Hermitage Hotel, and just beyond was the campground. We had no trouble finding a spot. We breathed in the fresh air and made dinner in the campground cooking shelter. These facilities were top notch. Some of the best I’ve ever encountered, and I’ve camped a lot!

As we fell asleep, snuggled inside our warm down sleeping bags, we didn’t think our camping spot could be any more beautiful. Again, we were wrong…

The next morning the clouds were still low and the air was chilly. We made a quick breakfast before heading to the Hermitage to make reservations to go out on Lake Tasman and see the Tasman glacier and icebergs. Just as we got to The Hermitage the sun broke through, opening the clouds up like a window. Suddenly, watching over us like ancient Gods in glistening robes of white, the faces of the New Zealand Southern Alps appeared before us. Not until that moment did we realize we’d been camping at the very foot of these glorious mountains! We could hardly wait to hike out into them! It seemed no view could be as spectacular as this… Once again, we were wrong.

UPDATE! Alice and Katie are now embarking on a Round the World trip!
Visit aliceintraveland.com to follow along on their continuing

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chuck and steph on

We are really enjoying your trip. pictures are get. wish we were there. maybe some day. Looking forward to the journey.


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