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Posts Tagged ‘alps to ocean New Zealand’

Since I was still at home, and had a few days yet before starting work, I was lucky enough to be able to put in some really good distances to get started on this challenge.

My lodging on Lake Pukaki was under the star-studded sky of the southern hemisphere. Here the Southern Cross, Milky Way and the inverted view of the Orion constellation are just part of the night sky spectacle. Lake Pukaki sits in the Mackenzie region, one of very few regions around the world classified as an International Dark Sky Reserve. Due to its limited light pollution, the night sky with millions of stars are visible as far as the eyes can see.

Stage 2

Lake Pukaki is the largest of three parallel alpine lakes in the Mackenzie Basin with Lake Tekapo and Lake Ohau being the other two. It’s milky blue colour is a result of finely ground rock particles from glaciers. The lake is part of the Waitaki hydroelectric scheme providing hydroelectricity, irrigation and municipal water supply. The lake originally had an outflow at the southern end but it has since been dammed. To increase storage capacity the lake has been raised twice eventually submerging Te Kohai Island which appeared on NZ’s five pound note pre-decimal currency era. Looking at some of the old images of Lake Pukaki there was a time in the mid-19th century when ferries were used to cross the river outlet south of the lake with a hotel on the bank. A bridge was added in the late 1800s. Both the bridge and hotel have now perished with the raising of the lake.

Firing up for today’s longer journey, I indulged in a sizeable breakfast, a quick swim in the lake to get the blood circulating and I was ready to tackle the next stage. I continued the trail on the eastern side of the lake on a nice quiet country road. Travelling along the shoreline of the lake I was greeted with incredible northward views of the Southern Alps and Mount Cook and kept imagining them as the mythical Aoraki and his three brothers. Directly across the length of the lake was the Ben Ohau range known for its ski touring route across the top of it.

Carrying on the trail I crossed the Pukaki Dam towards the Salmon Shop at Lake Pukaki Visitor Centre. It all went rather well until I reached the southern section of the lake and found myself exposed to the gusty winds from the north-west. It was quite the balancing act aiming to move forwards without taking a tumble down the cliffs and drop-offs near the trail.

With a stop at the Salmon Shop for some locally farmed freshwater salmon, I took this opportunity to gather my rattled nerves, have a rest and absorb the last of this vista. I left the lake behind and moved on south across the Pukaki Flats, a substantial expanse of tussock grasslands and a very flat route. These dry grassy plains are distinctive to the South Island and are largely used for grazing livestock. Without any shading available, plenty of water was necessary and a good head covering.

Having made it into the region’s largest town with time to spare, I’m off to see the highlights before I turn in for the night. I’ll tell you all about it in my next letter.

Wow, amazing. I really love the amount of information the Conqueror organisers provide along with the postcards. Plenty of hints and tips amongst the history, which is just enough to be really interesting – its certainly piqued my interest. Note to self ‘take swim costume’ πŸŠβ€β™€οΈπŸŠβ€β™€οΈπŸŠβ€β™€οΈ

Damn, I want to go now πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ anyone know a millionaire with a few thousand pounds lying around that they don’t need….😁😁 I really REALLY want to see those stars 🌌🌌🌌

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Immediately after finishing the Mt. Fuji challenge, and without further ado, I started my next challenge: the Alps to Ocean route in New Zealand on 30th December 2020.

This brought me to the end of the year and helped me to reach my Conquer 2020 goal of 2,020 kms.

And off we go….from one mountain on an island to another mountain on an island…

Imagine crisp alpine air, snow-capped peaks, glaciers, milky lakes and starlit nights. The training ground for Sir Edmund Hillary’s climbing skills in preparation for Everest. The legendary story of Aoraki and his three brothers. These are just some of the highlights of Mount Cook.

Stage 1

At 12,217ft (3,724m) tall Mount Cook is located on the South Island and the tallest mountain in New Zealand. It sits within the Mount Cook National Park which runs 37mi (60km) in a southwest-northeast direction. Home to more than 400 flora and fauna the national park is part of the Te Wāhipounamu South Westland World Heritage Site. The park is also home to 35 species of birds, including the only alpine parrot called Kea.

When I was looking into Mount Cook, I was wondering about the 98ft (30m) height discrepancy between different written sources. Further investigations revealed that in 1991 an avalanche of 350 million cubic feet (10MmΒ³) of snow and rock followed by twenty years of erosion had shrunk the mountain’s elevation by 98ft (30m).

Of the twelve largest glaciers in New Zealand, eight of them are within the park with Tasman Glacier being the longest at 15mi (24km). The glacier terminates in the Tasman Lake which up until the 1990s never existed. The lake was formed due to rapid glacial melting whilst the glacier itself continues to recede annually by as much as 2,697ft (822m). It is anticipated that within a few decades the glacier will be completely gone and the lake fully formed.

The lake’s primary outflow is the alpine braided Tasman River which flows south for 16mi (25km) through the Tasman Valley and into Lake Pukaki. The glacier, lake and river were named after Dutch explorer Abel Tasman, who in 1642 was the first European to sight the northwest coast of NZ’s South Island.

My journey begins at the base of Mount Cook, northwest of the river. Needing to cross the river to connect to Rotten Tommy trail, I took a short helicopter flight. The aerial view of this glacially-fed river and Mount Cook was a sight to behold. From Rotten Tommy, I took a southward bound route alongside the Tasman River. Although part of the route was quite rough and I had to cross several creeks, eventually the track changed to gravel road and made it easier to navigate towards my first overnight stop. Being a clear and sunny day, I had the treat of seeing Mount Cook in the distance rising above the lower snow-capped peaks in the National Park.

Before I go let me tell you about the Ngāi Tahu legend. The story goes that once the “Gods existed in the midst of a great sea of nothingness” and Raki, the Sky Father and Pokoharua-te-po, his wife had four sons, all living in the heavens. Raki left his wife to be with Papatuanuku, the Earth Mother, and together they created the world. Aoraki, the eldest son of Raki, along with his three brothers came from the heavens with a canoe in an attempt to persuade their father to return to their mother. Upon seeing him together with his new wife, the brothers knew Raki would never return. The brothers decided to go home but unfortunately their canoe wouldn’t rise and following strong winds and rising seas, the canoe overturned tipping the brothers into the water. Climbing atop the upturned canoe they waited for help. As time passed with no help coming, they eventually turned to stone. The canoe became the Southern Island and the brothers became the Southern Alps with Aoraki (Mount Cook) being the highest peak.

It all sounds absolutely amazing. I’m really going to have to seriously consider planning to walk these routes for real as part of my Project 101, especially if I want to see that glacier before it disappears completely – I’ve got just over 4 years to save…

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After a brief walk this morning, to stretch my legs and get some fresh air after being indoors yesterday due to icy roads after the snow, I updated my kms to the Conqueror Challenge app and voila, another postcard arrived into my mailbox πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸ˜πŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈπŸšΆπŸ»β€β™€οΈ I get really excited when these cards arrive…its fun to see where I’ve been travelling virtually while walking in reality.

So stage two:

Having left the alps and peaks behind, the town of Omarama marked the halfway point of my journey. Although a small rural town, mainly a service centre for locals and nearby residents, Omarama had a few surprises up its sleeve.

Disney’s 2020 movie release of Mulan was entirely shot in New Zealand with scenes filmed at the Clay Cliffs just outside of Omarama.

In 2009, NZ pilot Terry Delore set a new world record in his 87ft (26.5m) wingspan glider. Taking off from Omarama, Terry travelled 1,491mi (2,400km) up and down NZ for 15 hours reaching speeds of up to 93mph (160kph) before landing back in town. Omarama has strong gliding conditions making it a popular destination for gliding pilots. Omarama hosted the 1995 and 2007 World Gliding Championships of which Kiwis took first place in the 1995 open category and third place in 2007.

For the weary soul like myself, a Hot Tub soak the night before to rejuvenate my muscles and unwind was just what I needed. The Hot Tub was located outside in a private setting within a tussock and rock landscape. The tub was filled with fresh mountain water without any chemicals added. The business reuses the water for irrigation. A submersible firebox allowed me to adjust the water’s temperature. As I settled in, I watched the Milky Way appear and spill across the night sky with its millions of stars.

Eastward bound, I left Omarama refreshed and ready to tackle the next half of the journey. The trip was relatively easy and short when compared to previous days. The first half of the trail was off-road running parallel to the State Highway on the right. Crossing at Chain Hills to the left of the highway I began my descent alongside Lake Benmore, the largest artificial lake in NZ.
Lake Benmore was created in the 1960s as part of the Benmore Dam construction. The lake is split into two arms. The largest is fed by three rivers, Tekapo, Pukaki and Twizel plus the Ohau canal with Waitaki River flowing right through the lake, whereas the smaller arm is fed by Ahuriri River.

It is this smaller arm that I travelled along to Pumpkin Point, a grassy beach area, for a break and a splash in the lake, then onto Sailors Cutting where the off-road trail terminates and I join the highway for the rest of today’s trip. Not the most relaxing part of the journey as I braved the high-speed highway with an upward climb to Otematata Saddle. The views of Lake Aviemore and the valley beyond was a lovely compensation until I continued on the busy highway downhill all the way into Otematata.

Hmmm. The more I’m reading about this, the more I’m thinking I should add this route to the itinerary for my pending trip to Australia in a few years time. I’ve included a trip to NZ but only to visit the main attractions as well as a friend and her daughter (if she’s still living there at the time and not somewhere else in the world, as she is wont to do πŸ˜ƒπŸ˜ƒ). The route is approx 290kms and would take about 12-14 days to complete. πŸ€”πŸ€”πŸ€”

Where I actually walked this morning
Where I ‘virtually’ walked

If you’d like to join these challenges, here is my link https://www.theconqueror.events/r/CE1474 – I don’t get any money from anyone joining, but you get a discount and I get a discount on any future challenges. However, I’ve already signed up for 15 challenges (8 completed in 2020), so I think I need to put the brakes on for this year πŸ™ƒπŸ™ƒπŸ˜†

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