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Mackenzie District

Here you’ll find travel reports about Mackenzie District. Discover travel destinations in New Zealand of travelers writing a travel blog on FindPenguins.
  • Day42

    Definitely one of the most beautiful places in New Zealand. We hitchhiked through the mountains from Twizel to a little city called Aoraki situated at the foot of Mount Cook. Here it's al about hiking. The Meuller hut track brought us to a hight of 1800m, a track with an elevation gain of 1000m and 2200 steps. This is the most exhausting and at the same time the most rewarding track I did so far.

  • Day99

    After missing out on a helicopter ride and hike on a glacier twice, we still wanted to see if we could do it somewhere.
    We'd already heard about Mount Cook, and it is the largest mountain in the south island, plus next to it is the largest glacier in the southern hemisphere, Tamsin glacier. This was only an hour drive from our next destination (Lake Tekapo) so we mixed up our plans, made a few calls, and managed to get ourselves booked on a trip up there.

    We got up early and did the 3 hour drive from Queenstown, all the while excitement building and enjoying stunning scenery. As you approach Mount Cook it is an incredible site and also has Lake Pukkaki which is a a bright shimmering shade of blue I've never seen before. Quite a sight as you drive closer and closer. Once in Mount Cook village at the base of the mountain, we met our guide Ant and the rest of our group (8 of us in total). We got our gear and hopped in the van to drive 10 minutes down the road to the smallest 'airport' I've ever been too. We were due to go to a snow flat above the glacier and land there by ski plane and wear snow shoes. We squished into the plane and the propellers started to go - yes propellers. If you know me well you'll know I hate flying so can't say I was overly enjoying this bit. But the adrenaline and excitement was getting me through. However the pilot suddenly switched off the engine and turned to us saying he's just been told we can't fly as cloud had just swept in over where he was going to land, meaning he now won't be able to. So out we jumped and for a moment I couldn't believe our luck being so close and missing out a third time.

    Thankfully however Ant had a plan and off he went leaving us all sat in the airport to chat. Interestingly the rest of the group knew each other... they were all part of the crew filming a major Disney movie in nearby Wanaka. This was their one day off and this is how they were spending it! How random that we ended up with them. They were all friendly, some more chatty than others so we didn't get to know much about all of them. However there was Reese the assistant director (quite a big deal in the movie world we have since found out, having worked on all the Bourne movies as well as Jack Reacher and more). We also chatted a lot to three ladies from the costume department, including the really lovely Stacey who is the supervisor. She's worked on all he Pirates of the Carribean films and knows all the actors well. But her favourite person to dress is Meryl Streep, a very gracious and kind lady apparently.
    Anyway the movie they are working on stars Reese wetherspoon and Oprah, it's called a 'Wrinkle in time' and is based on a favourite children's novel. Look out for that in 2018!
    Fascinating and random meeting for us!

    Anyway Ant reappeared bearing crampons and a plan. He'd organised a helicopter and said we were going to land directly on top of the glacier instead. We were all weighed and the helicopter would have to go on two flights to get us all there. Being the smallest I had to sit right at the front shoved in between the pilot and the guide. Again, is this the best place for someone who is afraid of heights and flying? Tough luck! I had to get over that very quickly.

    Off we went, the helicopter started to lift instantly and we felt weightless. We flew across the valley gracefully hugging the mountain side to avoid sudden wind gusts. It took about 10 minutes flight time and we were over the glacier. Quickly we were ushered out and had to stay low while the helicopter took off to go get the others. Suddenly it was silent and we were greeted with awe inspiring sights all around us. Instantly you feel how solid and thick the ice beneath you is, and the deep blue colour inside. You also see snow covered mountains in all directions and the edges of the glacier coming down the rock. It also looked like there was lots of rock areas, but that is apparently just rock debre that has landed on top of more ice, so now we could really see what an epic size this glacier was. Immediately we got our crampons strapped on our feet so we were able to move without slipping, then took in the surroundings until the others arrived.
    Once together we started trekking across the extreme ridges and shapes of the icey landscape, stopping regularly to drink the pure glacier water.

    As we trudged along we came across the main destination, an entrance down into a deep ice cave! Our guide went ahead and put in a handline (using his ice axe) and we were instructed to come down one by one. Somehow I ended up going down first. It was roughly 10 metres below the surface down and at a steep 45 degree angle it was a little daunting. Especially as the cave was so perfectly formed and smooth that it was incredibly slippery, along with a small trickle of water making it even more so. Down I went stepping in some make shift footholds by Ants axe and also just by jabbing my crampons into the ice. At one point you have to turn round and go down backwards. At this stage Reese (assit director guy) is attempting to come down too. He swiftly slips knocking a big piece of ice down the cave tunnel and unleashing a big stream of water that hits me in the face and shoots down the inside sleeve of my coat, the cold alone nearly knocked me off my feet let alone the actual water slippery my feet away. I managed to regain my footing and didn't fall all the way down, as I would have done had it not been for my tight grip on the handline.
    Recovered, I continued down and landed in the middle of the expansion of an incredible cave.
    First thing I noticed was the unbelievable blue lighting causing by the thick blue ice. The walls were also so smooth it looked practically man made. There was a large hole in one part of the roof where the sun was beating down and melting that section. Plus a deeper section where the cave went down further, but got much darker. We didn't venture down there but made our way through a few levels of the cave and it opened out into a valley of ice and fallen rock.
    Then we clambered back up onto the glacier. Very carefully we continued to hike, watching every step as there were holes in the ice that you couldn't see the bottom of.... pretty terrifying thought slipping or falling into one of those.

    By now it had been several hours and it was time for the helicopter to come back and get us. Before we knew it we were back gliding through the air, level with the mountains and buzzing off the whole experience. Back on land it seemed surreal to believe we'd just experienced such a wonder of nature. Pretty harrowing thought to know that if global warming continues at its current rate that glacier won't exist in 35 years time...

    Back in the car we drove on to our rest stop for the night Lake Tekapo. On route we went back past the majestic Lake Pukkaki which now was an unbelievable shade of blue, brighter than the sky and just as still. As we arrived Lake Tekapo was similar but we felt not as stunning. We viewed it's sweet famous church on the waters edge (Church of the good shepherd) as the sun was setting. Finally we stopped at our cute airbnb place for the night - a converted shipping container - and crashed out asleep after such an epic and exciting day.

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  • Day3

    This morning we were taken by bus to the Tasman Valley to see the glacier. We had a 1.5km alpine walk to get to the lake and then boarded a jet boat and taken to see the pieces of icebergs that had broken off the glacier. We were able to get up close to one piece that had toppled over overnight so was safe to do so. We were able to touch the ice. We then went to see the glacier but weren't able to get too close in case some broke away. This glacier wasn't anything like the ones I had seen in Canada. In Canada they were white and blue and clean looking but this looks dirty due to being covered in rock mantle (rocks, debris and soil) but it does insulate the ice and slow the melting process. We have been lucky with the weather as on all APT trips this season the tour director said they haven't been able to see MT Cook. Although the weather has been good it was not good enough to take a helicopter flight over the mountain and glacier as it was too windy up where we were to have gone.
    We have an early 7.30am start in the morning so as to get to Dunedin in time to do a train journey tomorrow afternoon which was scheduled for Tuesday but had to be brought forward to Monday afternoon.
    Broken off pieces of iceberg
    Pieces of iceberg
    Tasman Glacier
    Jet Boat
    Jan and Kay
    MT Cook Resort
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  • Day8

    Beautiful views to Mount Cook from lake Tekapo and some extra large pine cones for sale. The monument is a tribute to the sheepdogs in NZ, without whom the early settlers would never have been able to manage their stock and survive.

  • Day12

    We woke up this morning around 7 and pulled the blinds open in the van to a beautiful clear view of the sun reflecting off of snow and glaciers of the peaks we couldn't see when we arrived last night. It was a bit breezy but not to cold, and clear skies so we were excited to start our day so we could get a little more up close and personal with Mt. Cook. We had our normal breakfast and ran out of gas to warm water for coffee and tea (which has been the normal time for us to run out of butane). Luckily we had another bottle to get our needed morning caffeine.

    We drove our van out of the camp site to the day park area where we started our Hooker Valley Hike. There were a couple glacial lakes we passed on the way, which were a milky, muddy color as the big sediment hadn't settled out yet. Later in as they drain into Lake Pukaki the water is a brilliant blue color as the big sediment is gone and just the fine glacial rock flour is left. We crossed a few swing bridges and started to get glimpses of Mt Cook in all it's sunny glory. The hike ended at Hooker Lake which had a few icebergs floating in it. The clouds hadn't completely burnt off yet but the skies were clear enough for some photos and good views. We headed back to the car for our lunch if sandwiches (again). It was about 8 miles round trip.

    At this point we were unsure of what to do next, as the other hikes we tentatively had planned weren't going to be any better than what we had just done. And one of them involved 2200 steps. We decided to head to The Hermitage (hotel/visitor center) to find an adventure. The kayak tours of Tasman Lake only left at 9am so we got stuck with the boat tour. We paid another $20 to get into the museum to kill some time. Sir Edmund Hilary was a bad ass, first person to summit Everest(highest point), visit the South Pole (most southerly point) and the North Pole (most northerly point) among many other things.

    We then boarded the tour bus for our ride to the Tasman Glacier. On our tour was a large group from a tour bus and a newlywed couple (whom we had seen at the blowholes with her in her veil and he in a suit jacket), and lots of older people. We got to the site and we're given a lecture about not walking too slowly or else you would be forced to return to the bus. We boarded our boat with Pancho (a guy from Mexico with an American accent and kiwi words) our captain. The water ranges from 3-7 degrees Celsius in the first three feet and then 0.03c under that. The lake was 240 meters deep at its deepest and about 5km long and 2km wide. We saw cool icebergs, 10% above water, 90% below, they are constantly turning and changing. We got to within 500m of the terminal face, and he said the terminal face was 12 stories high (it didn't look like that). The part of the glacier under the lake was 200 meter thick and extended at least 150 meters out from the terminal face. This is where icebergs 3-5 foot ball fields break off and explode to the surface. Eventually causing 3-4 meter high waves in the shallower parts of the lake. We then returned back to the museum and watched a cool movie about search and rescue in the mt cook area.

    We tried to use the public showers in town but they were about 5 people waiting so we went to the DOC campground again figuring we would try in the morning. That campground was like a Walmart parking lot and Chad didn't think he could handle all of that tonight so we drove down the road a bit. We found Glenntanner Holiday Park which has offered us peaceful and better views of Mt Cook than we would have had in Mt Cook village. We are very happy with that decision.
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  • Day3

    On Saturday morning as we were leaving Christchuch we were taken on a tour of parts of the city, where we stayed was one of areas which had been severely devestated. The bus driver wasn't sure which streets he would be able to travel as road closures and signs changed overnight.
    Many business have set up out of Christchurch and also new suburbs have been created.
    We travelled south through dairy country towards the Southern Alps until we got to the hilly country which looked very desolate. We stopped to have a look at the little Church of the Good Shepherd on the edge of Lake Tepako and were to have gone inside but were unable to as there was a Japanese marriage ceremony about to take place followed by another later in the afternoon, apparently quite popular for weddings because of the view. We travelled on to Mt Cook where we had a welcome dinner.
    Lake Tepako
    Church of the Good Shepard
    Lake Pukaki - Storage lake for hydro power stations
    Near Mt Cook
    Mt Cook from our room
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  • Day175

    After I finally convinced myself to leave Christchurch, I made my way down to lake Tekapo, where I met the two swiss guys again!! 🎉
    And honestly, at least Tekapo knows what welness means! They had hot springs and they were just wonderfully relaxing!! 👐
    Other than that, theres not a lot to do in Tekapo, which is why I did not stay too long there and said goodbye to the swiss guys one more time... see you in Switzerland!Read more

  • Day177

    Less than five minutes after saying goodbye to thw swiss guys, I picked up an american hitchhiker, also on his way to Mt. Cook! (Hitchhiking is a normal and common thing in NZ)
    So I had some company on my way, which I as really grateful for, as being alone after spending some time with people is always kinda hart to take....always ending im a down, taking some time to get back to that "travelling on your own-thing" - dont get me wrong, travelling on your own is awesome! But completely different and it always takes some time to adapt. So covering that time with a hitchhiker was a very pleasant thing!

    Mount Cook is stunning! Its breathtaking! The glaciers are not as big as in Switzerland, but just as beautiful! And of course, it was crowded with people!
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  • Day16

    Onderweg van Dunedin naar Christchurch zijn we een flink eind om gereden om Mount Cook, de hoogste berg van Nieuw Zeeland te kunnen aanschouwen. Een omweg van ongeveer 200 kilometer, maar zeer de moeite waard. Zonnig weer, mooie blauwe lucht en helder blauw water van het meer leverden de volgende mooie plaatjes op.

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Mackenzie District

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