» soul searching road trip oznz – day 1 (06/06/2010)
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we left dorset house at 8:30 am after the reception was open. i returned the room key and paid the room charge for the night and also in advance for another day when we got back in 4 days time. the receptionist was really helpful in advising me when i asked her about the mode of transport from the car rental depot to the airport.
the weather was cloudy with hints of rain and as i drove slowly (50 km/h speed limit) through memorial ave. towards sh1, it began to rain. our car entered sh1 moving towards the south with quite a heavy traffic. we ate what was left of our food while driving although alif threw a tantrum once when we moved passed a burger king and didn’t stop. i drove passed the town of rolleston, crossed rakaia river, the town of ashburton and the rain was getting heavier. just before we crossed the rangitata river, a semi-trailer truck coming from the south came towards our car with snow on the front radiator grill and bar with bits of hardened snow came splashing on our windshield. everybody was mega happy and presumed that it might be snowing up on the southern alps. we were proved wrong as merely seconds later, the heavy rain gradually turned into snow with blizzard like intensity and we were still in the lowlands of canterbury! everybody gasped with surprise and i decelerated slowly and started looking for an opening to pull over. the snow was already quite thick on the ground and i turned right, leaving sh1 into sh79 towards the highland region. i pulled over next to the empty road and everybody except yomi (who was sleeping) and i rushed out of the car to feel and touch their first snow. zack gave me a chuckle when she brought alif out without putting his shoes on and he looked miserable but still enjoying his chips. they were thrilled by the snow-show from the sky and after roughly 5 minutes, they got inside and i resumed my driving.
▼ snowing near ashburton!
▼ alif with his bag of doritos
at geraldine, while filling up the fuel tank, the snowing stopped and the clouds started to give way to a blue sky. the temperature was hovering just above freezing point and when we reached fairlie, enroute sh8, we entered the gateway to mackenzie basin with the grand view of the picturesque new zealand’s southern alps came floating towards us and overwhelmed all our sensory points, and it didn’t stop for the following 4 days.
▼ the clouds are leaving at geraldine
▼ fairlie with albury range
▼ dobson peak, 2,091m on two thumb range
when we ascended the sh8 towards the elevated mountains and cutting through burkes pass between albury (south) and two thumb (north) ranges, we were finally on ourselves on a snowy mountains unlike the previous days where we just looked from afar. i duly stopped at a picnic area and let them played there and i could see the wonders and joys from their faces. they held the snow, threw it, blew it, jumped on it, stomped it, fought with it and in alif’s case, ate it. me? i just held my dslr, pointed at them and the vast panorama that were surrounding them, and released the shutter, countless times.
▼▼ alif and yomi at burkes pass
◄ first snow play ►
◄ blowing and throwing ►
after letting them ran wild on the snow covered field for half an hour, we left burkes pass and descended a bit towards lake tekapo, another awe inspiring vista with its blue lake and white mountains. at 11:30 am, i parked near the church of the good shepherd and we walked slowly on the frozen tarmac towards the famous church and the lake beyond. alif insisted on the brink of crying in bringing a 1.5l bottle water (which was quite heavy) from the car so that he could empty the water into the lake. zack and i found it totally absurd but funny nonetheless of his motive since all our hands were numb from the cold but visualizing the then 3 year old holding a plastic bottle, so we let him. when we strolled past the church, we were presented with a landscape that i could only dream of before.
these were the #1 reason we came here…..the views
▼ lake tekapo with mt. edward, 1,916m
▼ alif emptying the bottle
▼▼ zack at lake tekapo, and with yomi
▼ at church of good shepherd
alif happily poured the water onto the lake’s surface, zack, aina, ija and yomi just sit on the slabs near the shore watching the extraordinary landscape. after sitting and squatting like an eternity, we decided to leave the place and proceeded to our next stop, tekapo town where they went inside a fish & chips shop to take away our lunch. i was left with alif to wander around the small town and managed to capture a fantastic view of the church, the lake and the mountains beyond about 700m away from the back of the shop lot.
▼ alif at tekapo town, last picture of bright’s snowcap before it went missing
▼ wide vista of the lake, the church and two thumb range from tekapo town
we got back inside the car, continued driving slowly while chewing every tiny bit of the scenery through the windy sh8 along snow covered fields, gentle grassy slopes and scattered pine forests until we reached lake pukaki, another one of those godsend spectacular lakescape. the southern shore has a large parking lot with public toilet and information centre at the western end and we parked in the middle facing the lake. as usual it was completely empty and we had our lunch inside the car. when we got out, the chilly winds blew in our faces and aoraki mt. cook, at 3,764m, the tallest mountain in new zealand, was staring directly at us, 60 km away from the north.
▼ having lunch at lake pukaki
▼ aoraki mt. cook from the southern end of lake pukaki
i was stunned by the beauty of it and left speechless by the tranquility of it. after a short visit to the toilet, all i had to do was to follow the only road available to the base of the enormous and famous mountain, sh80, mount cook road.
since day 1 of travel, cruising along sh80 was the most memorable of all, the landscape was truly beautiful, not a degree of the 360° (of any direction) was bad in any way. in front of you to the north, the mighty aoraki mt. cook and its siblings, to your right to the east, lake pukaki and the mountains beyond, on your left (west) lies the serene ben ohau range surrounded by pine forests. on your back (south) is the empty but very cool sh80 that winded its way between the mountain edge and the lake. i stopped numerous times along the way to preserve some memento inside the dslr’s cf flash card.
▼▼ scenic lake pukaki
halfway along the road, we left lake pukaki but the road follows tasman river instead, the river that fed lake pukaki from the melted glacier off mt. cook range. after leaving glentanner village, we were in aoraki mt. cook national park. the view from the road path was magnificent with aoraki mt. cook looked closer and bigger. we also crossed glacial moraine paths and streams from the ben ohau range using single lane bridges many times. the range had already blocked the sunlight from reaching the slopes but burnett mountains on our right (east) were still bright. it was almost 3:10 pm when i exited the road to follow a small path that lead to aoraki mt cook airport. when i parked the car, it was completely empty except us. we crossed the tarmac and walked towards the runway. zack was quite adamant that the climate was tolerable but halfway through, while trembling with cold, she returned to the car to take her jacket and yomi’s. it was 0°c. there were patches of frozen ice and snow on the tarmac. the view of the burnett mountains, with the prominent mt. blackburn, at 2,416m, stood like inches away from us. this was middle earth. it was the location used several times in peter jackson’s lord of the rings trilogy and the location for helm’s deep, the fortress that was defended in the two towers.
▼ walking towards airport runway in freezing condition, and without winter jackets
▼ alif near runway with mt. blackburn, 2,416m
▼ group memento
▼ frozen ground
▼ aoraki mount cook national park
we left the airport soon after that and re entered sh80 towards aoraki. 10 minutes later, the car veered gradually to the left and we entered hooker valley, at the base of mt. cook, fully covered by snow that fell during the morning. i didn’t put the snow chains but drove very slowly to avoid skidding and parked the car at the hermitage, mt. cook village. the village lies between the northern end of ben ohau range and the southern end of mt. cook range with hooker river running through it. they went out and started playing with snow again, the snow was thicker than the one we found at burkes pass that morning. the imposing peak of aoraki mt. cook was majestic but surrounded by clouds. i left them and walked towards the sir edmund hillary alpine centre that lies adjacent to the hermitage but decided against it as the snow was too thick and slippery to walk, it was almost dark as well and i walked back towards the others and took some more photos of them having fun.
▼ more snow at mount cook village
▼ yomi playing snow with bare hands
▼ facing west towards mt. ollivier (1,917m) on ben ohau range
▼ this young hobbit seems lost again
▼ she’s really enjoying it
the freezing temperature didn’t let us stayed outside for long and we decided it was time to go. it was almost 4:15 pm. while driving back, the view of the hooker valley was too much of a temptation and i stopped again next to the road for our final snow of the day. each one of them got out of the car and posed in front of the valley with the imposing mt. wakefield (2,050m) at the back. i believe it was a natural environment at its finest. the lighting from the setting sun was truly amazing and it remained one of my outstanding pictures that came out of the trip.
▼ alif at hooker valley
▼ with mt. wakefield (2,050m)
▼ au revoir!
we said our goodbyes and left the place, damn tired but really fulfilled. i drove the return trip for 1½ hour before we rejoined sh8 and reached the town of twizel where the rest of them went to four square, a supermarket chain. i just stood alone in the almost dark car park, shivering and heating my lungs by puffing the much needed smokes. they got back in half an hour later, bringing a bag of frozen seafood, caulis, broccolis, frozen fish fillets, a tom yam paste, eggs, onions, salt, cooking oil, rice and a 6 dollars hotwheels’ diecast car for alif. i resumed driving and found high country lodge and backpackers just 200m from the supermarket’s car park. while standing at the door, i rang the bell for the reception and the guy who answered said he’d come around in 10 minutes. i waited and when he finally arrived in a pickup truck, he let me in and in a talkative manner, talked to me about the heavy snowstorm that the town received the night before and that morning. no wonder the snow was everywhere. he also advised me to upgrade the room into a bigger family room with an extra 20 dollars to which i agreed. i guessed we truly need the space after what we went through for the past 7 days. he also showed me the wifi area and informed me that we were the only customers that night, as a bonus we could also park our car right in front of our door. i said cheers and proceeded to drive slowly on the frozen grass to our room.
it was more like an apartment, a living room with two bedrooms, 2 single beds in one room, 2 queen beds in another room. it also had a dining table, a kitchen and a sofa bed. zack, ija and aina started preparing our dinner by cooking rice with hot and steamy tom yam, throwing everything in it and it came out delicious and i ate a lot. later, zack and ija went to the coin operated laundry room to wash some of our clothes and came running back scared shitless because of the silence, dark and cold place. the room was in a different block where they had to detour our block first and the corridor inside the block leading to the room was completely dark before they could find the light switch. the temperature that night at twizel was 1°c. ija and aina decided to sleep on the sofa bed in the living room while watching the tv, zack, the kids and i on the other hand slept on one of the queen beds. overall, i drove 400 km during that particularly interesting day.
next» soul searching road trip oznz – day 9 (14/06/2010)