It has been 11 years since I last visited New Zealand, so a return trip was well over due. It would also be Veronika’s first time in the country, so I was keen to show her why I love New Zealand so much. We only had 8 days for this trip, so I decided to do a short campervan trip on the South Island, doing a loop from Christchurch to Queenstown, over the Haast Pass to the West Coast and then back to Christchurch via Arthur’s Pass. The first stop would be Mount Cook.
After spending our first night in Christchurch we hit the road in our hitop van, heading through the city and then out into the pretty green countryside of the Canturbury Plains, filled with lush green pastures and grazing sheep. Instead of taking the quicker southerly route down the coast, we took the scenic inland route out towards Mount Hutt. The mountains ahead were covered in springtime snow, making for a stunning backdrop.
We eventually reached the Rakaia River Valley where the large river exits the mountains and heads out over the plain with the snow capped Mount Hutt towering above. From here the road turned south, following along the curve of the mountains. We passed through a few small settlements before making it to Geraldine, a lovely little town that was well worth stopping in. Naturally, we found our way to the bakery.
Post cake, we turned north to Fairfield where we merged with the main route to Tekapo, Mount Cook and eventually, Queenstown. Mountains rose up directly ahead, marking out path. The road headed up over Burke’s Pass with beautiful hills and mountains all around, the taller ones dusted with snow. The green pastures of the plain were now replaced by the brown tussock grasses of the alpine plain.
The road headed straight towards Tekapo and the much larger ice capped peaks of the Southern Alps loomed in the distance. It wasn’t long before we found ourselves on the shore of Lake Tekapo, where we visited the famous Church of the Good Shepherd. This tiny stone built church has to have one of the most stunning locations for a church I have seen in the world, sitting right on the lake’s edge with beautiful snow capped mountains all around. I can see why people come from all over the world to get married here.
We stopped in the small village of Lake Tekapo for lunch before continuing on through the beautiful landscape. It wasn’t long before we came to Lake Pukaki, a large, long lake with the most stunning blue water, having been fed from the glaciers and snow melt from the Southern Alps. The Alps loomed closer and closer, and at the far end of the lake, the largest of them all, Mount Cook, looked majestic and dominating, with its head covered by cloud.
Here, we left the main road and turned north on the road to Mount Cook, following along the Western shore of Lake Pukaki, with the stunning lake on our right and mountains rising up on the left. The tall mountains ahead got closer and closer with each turn. The entire scene was simply breathtaking and this has to be one of the most eye catching drives I have done. I felt as though I was stopping every five minutes to take a photo.
Eventually we came to the head of the lake and then followed the road into the deep valleys ahead, with giant ice capped peaks covered by cloud all around. Ahead I could see the glint of light shining off of the Tasman Glacier, but the road headed into the Hooker Valley to the left, where the small Mount Cook Village sits in a stunning amphitheatre of tall mountains.
We camped in the White Horse Hill Campground in Mount Cook/Aoraki National Park, where for $13 per person per night, you have million dollars views all around.
That afternoon we trekked up the stunning Hooker Valley in the rain, but that will be a post for another day. In the evening the rain held off for a while and we sat outside with a beer and watched a brilliant sunset over the national park. In just one day, New Zealand really blows the mind. What an incredible country.