Glaciers, whitewater & Easter Bunny Hunt NZ style

Trip Start Oct 01, 2008
Trip End ??? ??, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , North Island,
Saturday, April 25, 2009

Like Christmas, Easter is a time to be spent outdoors, often camping with the family. Although there are eggs available in the shops the numbers were nowhere near the scale of the UK. In fact, it was quite difficult to find large eggs and the choice is very limited. However, Easter Bunnies are abundant - mostly dead having been shot in the Great Easter Bunny Hunt! The Bunny Hunt does not involve finding hidden eggs but involved 14,799 bloody bunny carcases. The 19th annual hunt in Central Otago inovled 39 teams trying to kill as many bunnies as possible. The winners were 'Cuniculus Terminators' - beware pronunciation and spelling!- whose 12 man team shot 978 bunnies. Stoats, possums, ferrets etc were also considered fair game.  
Whilst the Bunnies were being shot we were on our way to Aoraki Mount Cook with Claire and Paul who were over here in NZ for a couple of weeks. After night's stay in Hanmer Springs (at the southern end of the Kaikoura range about 90 mins drive from Christchurch) where there are natural hot springs and where we soaked in the hot sulphur pools - the temperature of the pools lies between 35 and 41 degrees which is a good thing as they are outdoors and it was sleeting! The next morning we awoke to snow covered ground but as we drove through the very scenic centre of the South Island the sun came out and we were treated to the most spectacular views of the snow covered majestic Aoraki Mount Cook and the Southern Alps, as well as the brilliant blue glacial Lakes Tekapo  and Pukki.  The road to Aoraki Mt Cook is a dead end and there is a 'village' nestled at the base of the mountain which consists of a variety of lodging options and both the ubiquitous iSite information centre and the Aoraki Mt Cook National Park Centre.    The Sir Edmund Hilary Centre is also based there and it in these mountains that Sir Ed honed his moutaineering skills before attacking Everest. He does have a god-like status over here! The centre is well worth a visit even thoug you have to detour to this area off the Christchurch-Wanaka road. The sky was so clear we joined an evening of stargazing with the resident  astronomer where we learned to recognize the Southern Cross and had a spectacular view of Saturn and its rings and realised the constellations are upside down in the Southern Hemisphere!   The highlight of our visit here though was a flight over the Southern Alps and around the peak of Aoraki Mr Cook (the tallest mountain in Australasia) in a small plane which took in the West Coast, the Fox and Franz Josef glaciers as well as an exciting  landing on the Tasman Glacier. It was pretty spectacular. We landed close to another plane from the same company which tried to take off but had become frozen to the snow! The two pilots had to dig quite a lot of snow away and chip off ice from the landing gear and eventually (after 3 attempts) it did take off. It was then a little worrying as we were now alone and I had visions of trying to bump start the plane and leaving someone behind.  However, all was well and we had a superb take off and more spectacular views on the way back. A highly recommended trip.    We also had a boat trip on a glacial lake which had lots of icebergs floating over it, some of them absolutely enormous and which we were informed would float around for months before melting away. The ice, where not mixed with scree, was so clear and had a magical blue coloration. Our guide was very knowledgeable and I learned a lot about glaciers and that the Tasman Glacier is the largest in New Zealand being about 29 Km long and up to 600m deep. The Tasman Glacier is retreating but the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers are advancing - not sure what that says about global warming!! If you're really feeling adventurous you can heli-ski on it! Having flown over it I decided against it...   From Aoraki Mt Cook we travelled to Wanaka and onto Queenstown. Just outside Wanaka is a place called Puzzling World which Claire was VERY keen to go to. So we did - and great fun it was too. They even have a cafe which has all sorts of puzzles on the tables to amuse you (free) whilst you have a coffee etc..     They also have a great outdoor maze - we had a race to get to the four corners in the quickest time and I am very pleased to sat Lyn and I won! Then it was back to the adventure capital of the world.   Lyn decided to join Paul and Claire on a jetboat and had a great time on a very choppy lake and river. The next day Paul and I went whitewater rafting on the Shotover river - grade 4/5 for those in the new. This was my first experience and it was quite terrifying from beginning to end. The journey there was an adventure in itself over the mountain range in an elderly bus on a very narrow, windy, steep dirt track with bits of road missing  and sheer drops. We had a great guide who who obviously knew what he was doing and instructed as well and made us work as a team. Although several near misses no-one fell out and the boat didn't tip over which meant I quite enjoyed it and would do it again. Not sure if I would feel the same had I fallen out though!   Whilst we were there Lyn and Claire visited the Kiwi Experience centre where, as well as Kiwis of course, are other creatures including the dreaded, hated Possum which is really quite sweet despite, as I said before, New Zealanders considering the only good Possum a dead one!   We stayed in Arrowtown where the autumn colours were coming into their full glory. Paul and I even managed a quick game of golf before we returned to Invercargill in time for the pub quiz -  the team Lyn and Paul were in (Mindgames) came 1st (photo to prove it!) and the team with Claire and me (Waterworks) came a somewhat dubious second as the score we thought we had seemed somewhat lower than the official score! But who were we to argue.

Finally back to hunting! Next weekend is the ducks turn - the duck hunting season starts on the first weekend in May. There are daily limits - 20 mallard, 10 Paradise ducks., 2 pukekos, 1 black swan etc.. There is a lot of advice in the local paper this weekend with tips to increase your bag and the local shops have lots of decoys, guns and camouflage clothing. We have also been told it is not the weekend to go out for a walk as the number of shooting accidents rises dramatically this weekend! There is even a special event on for duck hunter  'widows'! However, like trout, they cannot be sold in the shops or restaurants so I'm hoping one of my grateful patients might be a duck hunter.......
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