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Posts tagged ‘Te Waka a Maui’

Lake Matheson, Westland National Park, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand,

New Zealand: Lake Matheson & the southern Alps at sunset

Rewards go to the patient, especially those on daytime walks through the temperate rainforest to the Franz Josef Glacier and the Fox Glacier.

After all, this area is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

After my visit to Fox Glacier earlier in the day, I arranged for a short 10-minute shuttle from Fox Glacier town to Lake Matheson (Te Ara Kairaumati) before sunset. Even in winter’s low-season, I was surprised by how few people were around to enjoy the view.

The sequence of photos below span a period of just over one hour in time. Appearing in most of the photos are the two grand snow-frosted peaks: Mount Tasman (Horokoau) on the left and Aoraki (Mount Cook) on the right.

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New Zealand: forest walk to Fox Glacier

With coach services, I’ve been making my way down the west coast of New Zealand’s South Island. I spend a couple of days around Franz Josef town, and I describe the walk from town to the Franz Josef Glacier.

Will a visit to the Fox Glacier be as memorable? To find out, I head south on Highway 6 (Haast Highway) to Fox Glacier town, some 20 kilometres from Franz Josef town. Fox Glacier town was once known as Weheka which is also the original Māori name for Cook river nearby.

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New Zealand: slow bound to Franz Josef Glacier

To a person, from the InterCity coach driver to the proprietors of motels along the South Island’s west coast, everyone spoke about how the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers are two of the most accessible glaciers in the world. All things being equal, reaching the glaciers is definitely easier with a vehicle.

But I’m on New Zealand’s South Island, in the middle of a rainforest, and within the Westland National Park which is part of a UNESCO Heritage Site. I’m in no rush; so I think I’ll spare the trees from the expelled products of a combustible engine.

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New Zealand: TranzAlpine train from Christchurch to Greymouth

After experiencing various aspects of Christchurch (one, two, three, and four), it’s time to make the journey over to the muchly-anticipated Westland on the South Island of New Zealand.

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New Zealand: Coastal Pacific train from Picton to Christchurch

Previously: on board the Interislander ferry to cross New Zealand’s Cook Strait from Wellington on the North Island to Picton on the South Island.

There are cheaper or faster ways to travel between Wellington and Christchurch. But I love boats, and I love trains. So, an alternative is a trip with KiwiRail Scenic Journeys, combining boat and train. After 3.5 hours, the ferry across Cook Strait arrives in Picton at 1140am. I make my way out of the ferry terminal, and walk the short path to the train station nearby. My luggage on the ferry is automatically transferred onto the train, as I’ve paid for both legs of the trip in its entirety.

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Lake Matheson at sunset

New Zealand: sounds of a sunset on the South Island

What does a sunset sound like?

Does the question make any sense at all?

How can a sunset “sound” like anything?

I used to think that way, until I visited the South Island in New Zealand.

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New Zealand: Interislander Ferry across Cook Strait

The calendar page flips over to the 14th of July (2012).

I’ve spent a quiet week with friends in Wellington, New Zealand, and it’s time I head south to see Te Wai Pounamu or the South Island for the first time. My first destination is Christchurch, and I could fly there. But I’m in no hurry, and I want to experience the scenery route with a ferry across Raukawa Moana, otherwise known as Cook Strait.

I’ve arranged passage from Wellington on the North Island (Te Ika a Maui) to Christchurch on the South Island with ferry- and coach-service with KiwiRail. The journey begins with the Interislander ferry whose arrival is timed to match the departure time of the Coastal Pacific train leaving Picton for Christchurch.

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Cobden Bridge, Grey River, Greymouth, Westland, South Island

While in New Zealand, I …

Above/featured: Cobden Bridge over Grey River: Greymouth, Westland, South Island – 18 Jul 2012.

While in New Zealand, I …

  • woke up every morning glad I was on RTW (`round-the-world) travel for 2012.
  • was happy to return to the country a second time, this time for almost four weeks.
  • was skeptical of the stories about how the North Island could be any “uglier” compared to the South Island.
  • couldn’t believe how they were all true.
  • was glad to have taken the ferry and Coastal Pacific train from Wellington to Christchurch.
  • loved the spirit and perseverance of the people in Christchurch.
  • won’t forget the sense of optimism in the city.
  • was happy to stay in Christchurch an extra night, so I could spend the following day on a road trip to Akaroa.
  • was happy to have taken the TranzAlpine train route from Christchurch over the southern Alps to Greymouth on the West Coast
  • enjoyed sticking around in Greymouth for just one night; the town is small and compact, and just enough for a short layover.
  • had a 45-minute conversation with the nice lady who runs the Left Bank Art Gallery in Greymouth.
  • had frequent chats at various motels with proprietors about traffic in low- and high-seasons.
  • didn’t mind coach service down the West Coast, especially because there were few people around and the drivers provided ongoing commentary about the scenery.
Franz Josef Glacier, Westland National Park, South Island, New Zealand, Aotearoa,

Stick-people in danger! Franz Josef Glacier, Westland – 20 Jul 2012.

  • saw the sheer physical scale of the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, both of which are accessible by foot from their respective towns.
  • forked over the cash to fly over at least four glaciers (Fox, Tasman, Murchison, Franz Josef), as well as buzzing around Mount Tasman and Aoraki (Mount Cook).
  • forked over more cash to take a coach-boat-plane trip to, through, and over Milford Sound, respectively.
  • discovered three types of people in Queenstown: young men and women dressed in plaid- or skiwear, armed with skis or boards; groups of Asians pouring out from tour coaches; and retired couples. I fit into none of these groups.
  • crossed the Southern Alps four times: on the TranzAlpine train from Christchurch west to Greymouth, on the Newmans coach from Fox Glacier east to Queenstown, on a tour coach from Queenstown west to Milford Sound, and on a Cessna plane from Milford Sound east back to Queenstown.
  • have seen how the vast numbers of small and cheap eateries, coffee houses, and pubs show just how much of a college town Dunedin really is.
  • was followed by sunshine (or did I follow the sun?) for the entire time spent on the South Island.
  • saw a lot of similarity and familarity with my home province of British Columbia, Canada: the Westland with BC’s Coastal Range and Rockies, the rainshadow in Central Otago with the central Okanagan
  • was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed Dunedin: the great Otago Museum, home of the first university in the country, and good coffee-café culture

Alhambra-Union Rugby Football Club, North Ground, Dunedin, Otago, South Island

Rugby-union match at North Ground : Dunedin, Otago – 28 Jul 2012
  • wanted to learn some Maori. And why not – Maori is one of three official languages in New Zealand, including English and sign language. I found myself enraptured by Maori Television and their courses in Maori.
  • found it difficult flying out to Auckland and leaving the South Island behind.
  • found leaving Auckland for Sydney doubly difficult, as I was saying “goodbye, see you soon” to the country.
  • am learning that “soon” is not soon enough.
  • am now able finally to profess the truth: dear Aotearoa, I love you.

SKYCITY Hotel, Auckland, New Zealand

Illuminous bokeh on a wet winter night : SKYCITY Hotel, Auckland – 29 Jul 2012

I made the four photos shown above; this post is published on Fotoeins Fotopress at

New Zealand: Akaroa’s long harbour

Above: Black Cat catamaran.

It’s a cool grey morning in Christchurch, and I’m waiting outside the Canterbury Museum for a ride to Akaroa. Will the conditions improve by the time I arrive?

I’ve signed up with French Connection for the shuttle between Christchurch to Akaroa along State Highway 75. As the bus rolls onto the Banks Peninsula, the undulating hills gently rise and fall around the entire horizon. Some of the secluded bays and harbours look steep enough to have been carved by mini-glaciers. It makes a lot of sense, as Akaroa means “long harbour” in Kāi Tahu Māori.

It’s easy to forget Akaroa has French history and roots, but I realize I’m standing on top of an extinct volcano which last saw activity about 6 million years ago. Over time, weather eroded and gradually removed the top layers of the volcano. The post-glacial meltdown about 15,000 years ago saw the sea-levels rise and subsequently inundated the former caldera. It’s not the only extinct volcano around, as the nearby Lyttleton harbour was formed in a similar way.

I decide to go with a nature cruise on Black Cat cruises, and the catamaran heads out with six passengers and two crew. Within 30 minutes of leaving the dock in Akaroa, the skies clear as the breeze breaks and moves the clouds aside. Finally, in the open waters of the Pacific, the boat bobs gently in the light swell.

It’s a perfect sunny winter day, complete with the appearance of a pod of Hector’s dolphins and a couple of yellow-eyed penguins (hoiho).

But all too quickly, the cruise returns to the calm waters of the inner harbour, and the ship comes to a halt back in Akaroa. I’ll doze on the ride back to Christchurch, with lingering memories of the former volcano, and the dolphins who said hello to us earlier in the day.

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New Zealand: la petite ville française de Akaroa

Akaroa is a small, quiet, charming town with colonial-architecture of both English and French stylings. Located about midway down the east coast of New Zealand’s South Island, Akaroa can be reached by car from Christchurch in about an hour. For many, the trip will definitely take longer with required stops in Birdings Flat, Little River, Hilltop, and Duvauchelle.

In the race to claim sovereignty over New Zealand (even though the Maori were present for much longer), Akaroa was claimed by both English and French in 1840. Upon their arrival on the ship Britomart, the English won the “claims race” by a couple of weeks (or a couple of years, depending upon the definition of “claim”).

However, the French influence remains strong on this side of the planet. Even if the antipode to Akaroa lies near France, you’ll see from the photos below that the signs do not lie and help keep alive the spirit of the little French town or “la petite ville française”.

It doesn’t stop with just European history. A daytrip to Akaroa isn’t complete with a trip out into the harbour.

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