Driving through the Marlborough Sounds a few weeks ago, we stumbled upon a small slice of Vermont half the world away. With green mountains rolling down to fields of dairy cows and a rocky gorge carved by a crystal clear river, the countryside around Pelorus Bridge is a near perfect rendition of home.
It fast became one of our favorite spots as the first night we stumbled upon a free buffet- mutton, roast potatoes and whole chickens for the taking! The rest of our time was spent playing cards, trying to drink enough 4% beer to feel something, and – one of our favorite summer pastimes back home – tubing down the river.
As an added bonus, we discovered that next month Peter Jackson and Co. will be taking over the campground to film sections of The Hobbit here— specifically, a scene in which Bilbo and the dwarves clamber into barrels and raft the very same river!
Last fall, the city of Christchurch made international headlines for a devastating earthquake, followed by another, more destructive one last February. Multitudes of tremors and aftershocks since then (over 7,000!) have earned Christchurch the nickname displayed in our title.
Though aware of the damage, none of us realized its full extent until we attempted to drive into town. A chain link fence peppered with ominous warning signs blocks off the entire city center, so that no one other than construction personnel can enter what was once the bustling downtown. Countless restaurants, hotels, bars, shops, and other businesses stand forlornly empty, their imminent demolition scrawled on the walls in spray paint and posted notices.
For the past week we have been working for room and board at Te Hapu— a wild, beautiful, and remote sheep and cattle farm high on the northwestern tip of the south island. New posts are piling up, but internet access here is costly so we’ll leave you with this quick one until we set off again…
In the last eleven months we have sampled the life of the rich and famous, soaked up countless million dollar views, and enjoyed the freedom of doing whatever we please. Indeed there are many times when we’ve thought, “it can’t get much better than this.” This is not one of those times.
Rising 8,000 feet from the floor of the glacier-carved Hooker Valley, the tallest peak in New Zealand is truly world class. This is where Sir Edmund Hilary trained before climbing Everest; a mountain that just makes you want to climb it after one look. Though we were under-prepared to even cross above the snowline, we had an excellent two days gazing at the walls of rock and ice surrounding Mount Cook— or, as its known by its appropriately badass Maori name, Aoraki, “The Cloud Piercer.”
In the morning we dropped by the excellent information center, which displayed stunning aerial shots, old photos of early mountaineers, and facts and figures about the surrounding geology. The nearby and equally good Sir Edmund Hillary museum celebrated the climbing titan’s achievements and Antarctic expeditions. Just outside, the south face was lit a cool ice blue.
The receding Tasman Glacier has left one of New Zealand’s newest and coldest lakes in its wake. Lake Tasman is a scene straight out of Antarctica, and seeing a group of kayakers paddle next to some of the smallest icebergs gave it a new sense of scale. The massive Hooker Valley extended out of sight, a perfectly flat plane among towering peaks. We could just picture the Ice Age glaciers making their slow progress south.
The view up the Hooker Valley from the Sealy Tarns.
Though Mount Cook is the region’s draw card, the glaciers clinging to the commanding north face of Mount Sefton were equally impressive. (more…)
The sounds of water are everywhere in the Fiordlands. Rushing down rock faces, dripping quietly from moss, splattering on the hood of your jacket. Rain – from yesterday’s pounding torrent to the present misty drizzle – is at home here. We chose to accept it as a travel companion instead of letting it change our plans, and began the drive in to Milford Sound. The road in proved to be just as striking as the famed destination itself.
The new rainfall fed a countless number of waterfalls. They cascaded down every crack in the cliffs, some massive and roaring, others as slender and wispy as a tendril of smoke. Higher up, the clouds took over and the cliffs simply disappeared the sky, leaving the lofty heights to the imagination. Though we feared we might miss out on some of Milford’s iconic scenery, the weather leant a brooding beauty to the landscape.