Land of moun­tains and lakes

Our reader rec­om­mends a Kiwi es­capade, and gives us some point­ers for a self-drive tour.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - Travel - By TAN LYE KIAT star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my

IF YOU have not vis­ited New Zealand, and plan to do so, then one place you should visit is Mt Cook in South Is­land. A self-drive tour is a great way to do that.

Ki­wis are dis­ci­plined driv­ers. The speed limit within town is 50km/h; out­side the city, it pro­gresses from 70km/h or 80km/h, to 100km/h on the high­ways. Dare­dev­ils, be­ware! Ex­ceed­ing the speed limit means trou­ble. The traf­fic po­lice are wait­ing just around the cor­ner.

Rent­ing a car is easy. A 4WD is spa­cious enough to fit a fam­ily of five and lug­gage. It is pow­er­ful and easy to han­dle. You can ar­range for a car rental on­line be­fore you ar­rive, or use the ser­vices of car rental com­pa­nies at the air­port. If you choose car rental com­pa­nies out­side the air­port, there will be a shut­tle ser­vice to pick you up and send you to their car de­pot.

You will prob­a­bly start off in Christchurch, where you should stay for a day, at least, to look around. Be­cause of the mas­sive earth­quake, you can now see “card­board build­ings” where the old mag­nif­i­cent struc­tures once stood. It is too risky to re­build at the same quake site but you can still drive around the city.

First, set your GPS to Geral­dine, which is 139km away. The drive will take you past vast farms where you can see cat­tle or sheep graz­ing. Have a cof­fee break in Geral­dine, and re­mem­ber to check the fuel tank.

Petrol prices vary from place to place; it is much cheaper in North Is­land. From Christchurch south­wards, you have to pay more. When at Geral­dine, set your GPS to Lake Tekapo, 88.6km away. When it asks whether you take the “dirt” or “tar” road, key in the lat­ter – oth­er­wise you may be taken on a longer route through more farm­land.

As you near Lake Tekapo, you will be en­chanted by the pris­tine blue lake and beau­ti­ful lupins grow­ing wild, gen­er­at­ing a car­pet of pur­ple, pink and white. As you drive along the high­way, you will be awed by this scenery, and will want to stop to take more pic­tures.

An­other place on the way is the Lit­tle Good Shep­herd’s Church, on the shores of Lake Tekapo. In­side this small church, you will have a van­tage view of the lake and moun­tains. Cou­ples from around the world have come to this quaint and beau­ti­ful lo­ca­tion to get mar­ried.

Lake Tekapo to Mt Cook is about an hour’s drive. Ao­raki, as the lo­cals call it, is the high­est peak in the South­ern Alps. If you stay at Mt Cook Vil­lage in Mt Cook Na­tional Park, you will have easy ac­cess to the many hik­ing trails to see glaciers and moun­tain lakes.

The hike to Tas­man Glacier and the Blue Lakes starts at the Blue Lake Shel­ter. To get there, take the Tas­man Val­ley Road which is a scenic 8km drive to the Blue Lake Carpark. The climb up takes about 20 min­utes un­til you as­cend a rocky moraine to a view­point over­look­ing the Lower Tas­man Glacier and the Blue Lakes.

After tak­ing in the sights, you will need an­other 20 min­utes to de­scend to the start­ing point.

It is breath­tak­ing! In­hale the moun­tain air, soak in the tran­quil­lity, and ad­mire na­ture at its best. At Mt Cook, you can stop by the Vis­i­tor Cen­tre to view video clips and talk to the staff who are ever will­ing to an­swer your queries. En­joyed your hol­i­day and ea­ger to share your story? We’d love to hear what made your trip so spe­cial. You can also share in­sights gleaned and use­ful tips. Your story (Word or text for­mat only) should be about 600-800 words long, with at least seven photos (1MB). There is no pay­ment for sub­mis­sions. We re­serve the right to edit all sub­mis­sions. Send your story to: star2­travel@thes­tar.com.my.

De­cem­ber is sum­mer­time in New Zealand. The day­light hours are longer and the sky is still bright un­til 9pm. The weather can be chilly, though, and you must come pre­pared with jacket and rain­coat.

Through­out our stay in New Zealand, we used cash in­stead of card as there are sur­charges and con­ver­sion which would in­cur more costs. This was my first time in New Zealand. I would still like to come back to Mt Cook and stay longer to en­joy the many out­door ac­tiv­i­ties and na­ture.

The views ex­pressed are en­tirely the reader’s own.

Lupins grow­ing lux­u­ri­ously by the banks of Lake Tekapo. — Photos: TAN LYE KIAT

Tan and his wife be­hind their mo­tel at Mt Cook Vil­lage. Taken with the morn­ing sun show­ing a crown of snow­capped peaks.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malaysia

© PressReader. All rights reserved.