On the road. Mount Cook to West Coast

4 days // about 417 kilometers with 287 on bus

Step 1. Lake Tekapo

After four days of hiking, I leave Mount Cook and the Glentanner campground to spend a day at Lake Tekapo. Same like before, I ride along Lake Pukaki and its water of a fabulous turquoise color for about thirty kilometers. Having recovered the intersection with the main road, I continue towards Lake Tekapo. A small information center sells salmon sashimi at the end of Lake Pukaki. I take this opportunity to taste (despite a fairly pricey price) and having lunch outside enjoying the view of the lake and Mount Cook in the background. The salmon has an incredible melting flesh. There are a lot of salmon farms in the area.

I continue my route following the Lake Tekapo Alternative Route Trail, a section of the A2O: Alpes to Ocean trail that connects Mount Cook / Lake Tekapo to Oamaru on the east coast. The trail runs along the other side of Lake Pukaki and I appreciate the smell of the pines and the song of the cicadas in the warm afternoon atmosphere. A climb of 200 meters to reach a plateau where the Tekapo Canal is located, which brings the water from Lake Tekapo into Lake Pukaki and is part of a system of hydroelectric dams organized throughout the Mackenzie Basin region. Another farm raises salmon in the canal. The breeders are feeding the fish when I go by and the seagulls twirl in the air.

I spend about forty kilometers along the canal on an almost flat track (alleluia), because in addition, as always, the wind blows strong. Just before Tekapo, I pass a small hydroelectric power station and finally arrive at the Tekapo village at the end of the lake of the same name. I go to the local campsite and spend the evening chatting with two other cyclists.

Step 2. Visits et disappointments in Tekapo

The next morning, I booked a small plane flight with Air Safari. The ride is supposed to fly over Lake Tekapo and the peaks of the area including Mt Cook as well as the various glaciers aroun and Fox and Franz Joseph glaciers located on the West Coast. From Mt Cook, the West Coast is very close as the crow flies. Only the mountain range separates the two regions.

But the weather is cloudy with a sea of clouds over the West Coast making the observation of the glaciers Fox and Franz Joseph impossible. The flight still takes place but the journey will be a little different. The pilot proposes me to sit in the cockpit at the the co-pilot seat, which I accept with pleasure. About fifteen passengers take place in the back and we fly away. Lake Tekapo and its region reveal all their beauty from the sky. We fly over the mountains with some turbulence. The wind blows strong outside. The Tasman and Hooker glaciers that I visited a few days ago unveil their impressive size. We go up and Mt Cook appears wrapped in a sea of clouds. I see the clouds spinning on its crest; the wind must be very very strong. The plane twirls around the top, which make my stomach a little bit sick. On the side of the West Coast, a sea of cloud spreads out as far as the eye can see. After 45 minutes of flying over the mountains, we go back to land at the small airport from where we left.

Air Safari - New Zealand - © Claire Blumenfeld

Being in the air was a pretty amazing experience but the cloudy weather combined with a stomach ache due to the turbulence have a little spoiled the adventure. And I am a little disappointed with the lack of explanations given by the pilot.

I spend a quiet afternoon at the campsite,the weather becoming more and more cloudy. In the evening I have booked another experience: the night tour of the Mt John Observatory to go and observe the stars. The Mackenzie area is one of the places with the least light pollution of the NZ. This makes it the perfect place to observe the stars. During my few days at Mount Cook, I had the pleasure of being able to contemplate a superb starry sky, with a very pretty milky way. In Tekapo, there is Mt John, a 1029-meter-high mountain where an observatory is built.

Before my rendezvous with the stars, I have an appointment with Hana, a Malaysian girl whom I met five months earlier in Te Anau. At the time she worked at the village supermarket. Since December, she has changed location and works at the Tekapo supermarket! I came across her completely by chance doing some quick shopping last night! So we made appointments to discuss. I join her after her work and we spend a few hours talking. She shares a house with other backpackers also working in Tekapo and … two sheep living in the garden of the house! Hana is very nice and very impressed with my decision to travel by bike. She prepares me pancakes that I devour with happiness.

The time comes for the observation of the stars. But the weather being completely overcast, well, no observation of the sky tonight !! This is a big disappointment. The tour still took place but we only visit the various telescopes. We se a multimedia presentation and have the right to a hot chocolate. Really not enough to erase the bitter taste that remains on my tongue. Definitely my activities in Tekapo will not have been very successful.

Air Safari - New Zealand - © Claire Blumenfeld
Step 3. Lake Hawea

The next day, I go back on the road. I decided to go to the West Coast. To do this I must go down to Wanaka and then join Haast on the West Coast. There is no other road. I try to do hitchhiking with the bike. But after two hours of waiting in the cold and with the rain coming, I give up. I take the bus that departs at 1pm from Tekapo and which embarks with the bike without too many problems. Just two hours to reverse the whole journey I made a few days ago. The rise of the Lindis Pass seems so easy!

The bus drops me at Tarras, the tiny village where I stopped a week before for lunch. And from there, I go cycling to reach Wanaka. Arriving at an intersection indicating in one direction Wanaka, in the other Lake Hawea, I decide to go to the lake. This is good because, when I was in Wanaka I had planned to go to see the lake but I had not had time! And as it is on the road to Haast, it’s perfect!

I reach the lake, about fifteen kilometers away. A small village spreads along its banks. I spent the night in a camping by the lake, installing my tent just on the edge. I have an absolutely splendid view!

Step 4. Reaching the West Coast

The next day, I take another bus that takes me in two hours through the mountains and the gates of Haast. The road is very mountainous. In the early afternoon, the West Coast finally appears in front of me! I am in Haast. The smell of the sea filled the atmosphere. Palm trees and large ferns change me from the vegetation of the mountains. First stop on the West Coast: join Jackson Bay!





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Trail Note is the gateway to my current journey and all that implies. Which means fun, adventure and lots of interrogation points.

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