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MacKenzie Country and Mount Cook

Over the years, we've tried to visit pretty much every place in New Zealand there is to visit. To date, there are still a few regions which remain unvisited by us - the East Cape/Gisborne area between Napier and Tauranga being the most significant.

One of the places which we hadn't visited was the South Canterbury region called the MacKenzie Country; named after a sheep rustler - James Mckenzie (yes, spelt differently) who hid out in the sparsely populated region with his rustled sheep. The area remains sparsely populated today, but is rapidly developing a strong pull for tourists to visit due to it's fairly unique, if somewhat stark, landscape.

Starting off from Christchurch, we headed South on State Highway 1 before cutting inland on to State Highway 79 at Geraldine about 150km away. From here, we drove for another 100km or so to the village of Lake Tekapo, situated on the Southern shores of the lake of the same name. The weather was perfect for the visit and we were able to enjoy a walk in the hills around the village, play a round of mini-golf and have a look at the iconic Church of the Good Shepherd - surely one of the most photographed landmarks in New Zealand.

From Lake Tekapo, we continued West before taking the road up along Lake Pukaki towards Mount Cook and the little village which lives in its shadow. There isn't much too Mount Cook, but there is a huge hotel there called the Hermitage from which you can see views of the tallest mountain in New Zealand - Aoraki/Mount Cook. The mountain is 3,754m tall and is apparently 37th tallest in the world in terms of prominence. It was also a mountain on which Sir Edmund Hillary practiced before his successful ascent of Everest. The Hermitage hotel originally dates back to a small original built back in 1884, but in the intervening years it has become a bit of a behemoth which dominates the village.

Anyway, whilst in Mount Cook, we stayed for a night and enjoyed a star gazing tour which took advantage of the lack of light pollution to allow you to view stars through a telescope unimpeded. During the day, we also took a decent hike up to Kea Point which overlooks the terminal moraine of the Mueller Glacier and then decided to take a steep uphill walk to the Sealy Tarns - supposedly a fantastic viewpoint from which to see both Aoraki/Mount Cook and the valley below. Unfortunately, the weather turned whilst hiking upwards and made the view decidedly poor.

Following those little excursions, it was time to hit the road back to Christchurch. However, we took the long way round, first heading South to Twizel and then Omarama stopping at any little walks or places that looked interesting. In Omarama we enjoyed some time in the local spa pools. The Omarama spa pools were like huge barrels where you could stand in up to your neck. Great to relax after a good long walk the day before. From Omarama, we turned back towards the coast. Some more spectacular views were on offer as we drove along, past Benmore and Aviemore lakes, before hugging the braided Waitaki River down to the coast. A brief stop to stretch the legs in Timaru and then back to Christchurch for our flight home.

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Top Left: The Church of the Good Shepherd, on the shore overlooking Lake Tekapo. The Church was built in 1935 and was the first church built in the MacKenzie Country. Apparently, this is one of the most photographed buildings in New Zealand.

Top Right:
Lake Tekapo from the Southern shore. Gotta love those reflections. We actually tried to take a paddle in the lake on the Eastern side, but it has to have been one of the coldest bodies of water we've ever stepped in. 

The MacKenzie Basin photographed from most of the way up Mt. John. There's an astronomical observatory on the top of Mt. John, and a thoroughly pleasant walk up the South side and down the North-East side and completing the circuit by walking along the lake shore.

Bottom Left: A view of Lake Tekapo from the top of Mt. John. It was a pretty beautiful spring day up the top.

Bottom Right: A Skylark singing his little heart out on a rock at the top of Mt. John. There were dozens of Skylarks up there, hovering and singing.
No. I haven't done that sodding outlet level retail budget yet.
I found it, I found it and it was THIS big!! Left: A view of a mountain - which may well be Mount Cook, but I'm not 100% sure - taken from the bridge/dam over the River Tekapo at the South outlet of Lake Tekapo.

Bottom Left: The sun starting to set down on Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Bottom Right: A minor avalanche we saw coming down near Mueller Glacier. This was up on the left hand side walking up towards Kea Point.
No. I haven't done that sodding outlet level retail budget yet.
Right: A picture of the Sealy Tarns located most of the way up the track to Mueller Hut at the North end of the Sealy Range.

Bottom Left: A picture from the end of Kea Point showing both the terminal moraine at the bottom of Mueller Glacier and Mueller Lake, formed from the glacial melt.

Bottom Right: What a difference a day makes! The previous day had been wet and miserable and we got soaked on the way back from Kea Point/Sealy Tarns to the Hermitage. And this photo shows a view from the deck at the Hermitage down to Aoraki/Mount Cook.
No. I haven't done that sodding outlet level retail budget yet.