St. Arnaud and the Nelson Lakes
Another trip to help fill a gap in the map. It was deep into the Southern Hemisphere winter when we made the decision to take a flight over to the top of the South Island and have a look around the region known as the Nelson Lakes - an area that we'd skirted around a couple of times, but never had the opportunity to stop in.
Departing from Wellington Airport, we took a small twelve-seater plane over to Blenheim Airport. Having not been in such a small aircraft before, the trip provided a rare opportunity to actually see a pilot at work and see out of the cockpit window forward as the plane flew. This was particularly enjoyable on the way back into Wellington after the trip as we started to descend into the evening lights of the City.
From Blenheim, and after a stop at the supermarket to stop up on food and drink, we took a hire car along the very scenic drive up the Wairau Valley towards Saint Arnaud village. The drive is about a hundred kilometres during which you pass through some of the many vineyards of Marlborough and pass the Rainbow ski field just outside St Arnaud.
One of the main reasons we went to St Arnaud was to take part in the Kea Conservation Trust winter survey - basically, go around some of the alpine areas of the South Island hoping to spot and count Keas. This gave us the opportunity to take a couple of long walks and get above the snow line. On our first day there, we walked up Mount Robert; which was very enjoyable once we got above the snow line and were able to walk on top of the ice sheet (which occasionally cracked underfoot leaving us thigh-deep in snow). On the second day, we climbed up the St Arnaud Range by taking the long and winding Ridge Track. From both the top of Mount Robert and the top of the St Arnaud Range, the views were incredible.
Unfortunately, we didn't see any Kea at all! None! We did see some stunning views though - some of which are shown below.