3 Travel Memories: New Zealand’s South Island
It’s good to stop for a moment, step back, and consider the journey: the places visited, the impressions accumulated, the conversations and ideas left behind. In the midst of career change and year-long RTW travel, every moment becomes a potential highlight. I’ve been keeping all of my senses tuned, and in the southern winter’s low-season, it has become more than just a possibility, with far fewer people on the roads and at various sites.
When Christina Hegele asked if I might participate in a blogger relay, I was in the last stages of my July 2012 visit to New Zealand’s South Island. Te Wai Pounamu o Aotearoa has provided some of the finest travel highlights, a conclusion shared by many.
I’m happy to participate in this blogger relay, but an important question is: how does one select a mere *three* memories? I’m happy to give it a try!
As Mark Wiens at Migrationology has passed the virtual baton to me, here below are three travel memories from the South Island of New Zealand. Each memory includes a different mode of transport, but all three memories include mountains.
AKAROA HARBOUR BY BOAT
It’s easy to forget that your boat is wandering around a former volcano. That might explain the overall topography, the rugged hills, the quiet secluded harbour. The volcano was formed in the last million years, and filled with water as the sea-level rose about 20,000 years ago in a global post-glacial melt.
I’m headed out on a day-trip from Christchurch to the neighbouring Banks Peninsula. What started out as a typically grey winter day has turned for the good with clear blue sky and calm conditions. I head out into the water with Black Cat harbour cruises.
There are mountain goats, seals, yellow-eyed penguins, and Hector’s dolphins. For many, these are the highlights of a boat cruise into Akaroa harbour. For me, it’s imagining I’m on the flank of what was once a very powerful volcano. Here, at the mouth of the harbour looking east out over the Pacific, the next landmass is South America over 9000 kilometres away.
The TranzAlpine train is one of three KiwiRail journeys in New Zealand. I’m taking the train one-way from Christchurch over the Southern Alps to Greymouth on the West Coast.
An open-air carriage provides passengers with unobstructed panoramic views . The train’s maximum speed is about 100 kilometres per hour or about 60 miles per hour. At altitude close to the snow line, the temperature is at or below freezing, and the windchill from the train’s speed makes the effective temperature closer to -10C/14F.
It’s cold enough to have me grasping for air. But there’s another reason.
The scenery is breathtaking.
What I’m seeing is oddly familiar; it’s as if I was on a train somewhere either in the Coastal Mountain Range or the Canadian Rockies in my home province of British Columbia.
But this isn’t British Columbia, I remind myself. I’m on the opposite side of the planet, and I’ve left Upper Canterbury and entered the Westland on New Zealand’s South Island. And as many who’ve traveled here know, the surprises keep coming, lurking behind every corner.
THE GRAND TRAVERSE, FROM THE AIR
With a free afternoon between glaciers, I’ve a need to go up into the air for a better view of the Southern Alps. I sign up with Air Safaris, and with a GA8 Airvan, we fly up to a height of about 2500 metres (about 7500 feet) for a look around in a 50-minute flight.
One great advantage of this flight is being able to take in both Mount Tasman and Aoraki (Mount Cook). At 3755 metres, Aoraki is not only the highest mountain in the country, but is also a sacred place to the local Ngāi Tahu iwi or tribe.
My head keeps whipping left and right, one mountain to another; there’s the Tasman glacier, and over there, that’s the Murchison glacier. Again, this all looks very familiar, as if I’ve been transported back to British Columbia. There is, however, one important distinction: New Zealand explorer Sir Edmund Hillary participated in a climbing expedition on Aoraki in 1948. The preparation was clearly productive, as Hillary and Tenzing Norgay scaled Mount Everest a mere five years later.
The pins in the Google map below mark approximate locations for “Akaroa Harbour by boat” in red, “TranzAlpine KiwiRail” in green, and “The Grand Traverse, from the air” in blue.
Thanks go to Lowcost Holidays for sponsoring this campaign, and to Christina Hegele for captaining team Blue. I’ve enjoyed reading the variety of travel moments from other members of the relay team, and I look forward to reading a lot more from the next members in the relay. You can also follow the thread on Twitter with the hashtags #BloggerRelay and #TeamBLUE.
For the next person in the relay for Team Blue, I’m pleased to pass the “baton” onto Lauren DiMarco of Where in the World is Lola?.
I made the photos above with a Canon EOS450D (XSi) camera. This post appears on Fotoeins Fotopress at fotoeins.com.
Disclosure: No Connection, Unpaid, My Own Opinions. I have not received any compensation for writing this content and I have no material connection to the brands, topics and/or products that are mentioned herein (cmp.ly/0).
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