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Published: August 15th 2016
Leaving the devastation behind in Christchurch I again headed inland to the spine of the South Island. My destination was the Mackenzie Basin, home to Lake Tekapo, Aoraki National Park (New Zealand's highest mountain), and the alpine village of Twizel where I was to meet a friend of a friend who is now a friend. Upon arrival into the lakeside town of Lake Tekapo I saw a sign for an ice rink. Naturally I went and inquired about the possibility of skating. Turns out for $16USD I received skates, pucks, a net, a stick, and 4 hours of ice time all by myself. The first bargain I've got in New Zealand. I was like a kid, I could not lace up my skates fast enough. I haven't been on the ice since I broke my knee back in December of 2011. I skated until I felt I would vom and I shot pucks till I had blisters on my hands. Man did I love it! After all the time away from the ice I learned that I am still slow and I still have a terrible shot. Nice to know that some things don't change.
Lake Tekapo is a beautiful
town. It is lined up right on the shore of this otherworldly turquoise blue alpine lake. The lake is then surrounded by stunning snow capped peaks in a 360 degree panorama. I spent my days hiking around the lake and taking in the views. The weather was quite windy so reflections of the mountains on the lake were not to be experienced this time around. Nevertheless it was great to be in a mountain setting and it brought back some memories from home which was nice to have.
The Mackenzie Basin was also the sight of the realm of the Riders of Rohan in the Lord of the Rings movies. I recognized it strait away coming in over the valley and my assumptions were confirmed when I saw the signs on the highway. Beautiful area that looks similar to the Arkansas River Valley and Collegiate Range back in Colorado.
The following day I set out for nearby Aoraki (Mt. Cook) National Park to visit the highest mountain in the country. I got about 30km from the park's entrance and decided to turn back. Weather here on the South Island has been a real factor. The wind was so
brutal I actually felt my little Toyota Corolla slide sideways on the asphalt. That was enough for me so I cut my losses and headed to the town of Twizel. Hopefully I'll get to see Aoraki from the west coast when I get there.
Way back in Brazil my Australian buddy Dave-O told me that when I got to New Zealand he would set me up with one of his friends. Brad and his family live in Twizel and received me with a warm welcome, feeding me, and giving me a bed for the night. Brad also works at the Ohau Snow Resort where we were going to go snowboarding together. He set me up with a board, boots, pants, coat, the whole nine yards. Unfortunately the two days we tried to snowboard we were turned back by wind and lightning of all things. I never got to ride.
Not to be defeated Brad took me around the basin and showed me some of the beautiful countryside from a locals' perspective. The scenery was again unreal and I enjoyed very much cruising around in the Subaru (and not driving for a change) viewing the rivers, lakes and mountains.
Brad really lives the dream up here. He works at the Lake Ohau Lodge
which allows him to ride in the winter and gives him access to world class fishing in the summers. After being shut down riding Brad lent me one of his rods and some gear to try my luck as he had to return to work. I fished quite a bit in the lake but did not catch anything. The weather was again terrible with gale force winds but it was nice just to be out here casting a line. I even tried to poach some of the canals at night, but again same story. No fish.
Even though I was shut out of snowboarding, being here in the Mackenzie Basin and surrounding areas of Twizel and Lake Tekapo has really been a highlight for me during my time so far in New Zealand. The lifestyle, people, and countryside are really something special and I could easily live here if I were a Kiwi. All good things must come to an end though and for now I will continue south to continue exploring New Zealand.
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