Go Travel New Zealand - - Contents - By Gary Cody

Driv­ing into the Macken­zie coun­try al­ways brings back the story I was told as a young­ster. Macken­zie the sheep-rustler and his loyal dog. The dog who is hon­ored in brass out­side the iconic Church of The Good Shep­herd in Tekapo. An ear­lier pi­o­neer Macken­zie would steal sheep at night and drive them hun­dreds of miles and sell them to farm­ers well out of the way of his vic­tim’s farms.

The drive along Lake Pukaki head­ing into The Her­mitage at Mt Cook lifts my spirit ev­ery time. I have vis­ited this sa­cred place many times how­ever I never turn down an op­por­tu­nity to pay homage to our high­est moun­tain Ao­rangi (Maori for Cloud Piercer) Mt Cook. The moun­tain named af­ter the first Euro­pean Cap­tain James Cook who mapped and claimed the coun­try for Bri­tain.

Check­ing into a room with a view of The Moun­tain is a must at The Her­mitage.

The late Sir Ed­mund Hi­lary’s head and shoul­ders lightly etched into the wi­d­ows is even spe­cial. Sir Ed­mund trained on Mt Cook be­fore he con­quered Ever­est with Tens­ing Nor­gay in 1953. The bou­tique mu­seum at the ho­tel is named in his honor with mem­o­ra­bilia of Hi­lary’s many con­quests.

Early to bed as the next day was some­thing I was look­ing for­ward to im­mensely.

I was to be flow around Mt Cook Na­tional park by Heli­works. I was early to the heli-port af­ter a hearty Her­mitage break­fast and met a pilot that ended up be­ing some­one who I would fly with any­where any­time again. Mark Hayes knew this moun­tain­ous ter­rain as if he was com­fort­ably at home us­ing his TV re­mote.

His at­ten­tion to de­tail and safety was para­mount. He could read the val­leys and guts in the rugged moun­tains so well he warned the

pas­sen­gers well be­fore we even re­ceived a lit­tle tur­bu­lence. His will­ing­ness to as­sist and an­swer ques­tions was more than ex­pected.

Over to the West Coast side to see the sprawl­ing river val­leys over spec­tac­u­lar edges and sus­pend­ing into mid-air was awe­some.

One high­light was land­ing be­side the Tas­man Hut and leav­ing the ma­chine, walk in the pris­tine white pow­der and breath the fresh thin air. The at­mos­phere in this theatre of na­ture is un­real. The odd squawk from a rogue Kea is the only noise. Some­times at the end of sum­mer there are avalanches and the noise they make is spec­tac­u­lar.

Back in the ma­chine and off to an­other rare high­light. Mark had spot­ted a Bull Thar and a young year­ling a few days ear­lier; he was “right on the but­ton.” Danc­ing like bal­let dancers over the treach­er­ous rock and shale these two an­i­mals were just breath­tak­ing to watch. Mark hov­ered for quite some time as these two hardy beasts turned on a dis­play for the peer­ing eyes from the he­li­copter. This was turn­ing into a pro­duc­tion.

The Hi­malayan Tahr was in­tro­duced to New Zealand some 100 years ago pri­mar­ily for the pur­poses of sport. Lord Bed­ford had re­trieved some from the Paris Zoo and had them at his English es­tate of which he shipped some to NZ. A statue was un­veiled re­cently to mark Bed­ford’s con­tri­bu­tion to hunt­ing in New Zealand.

Head­ing back to the heli-port we flew across Glacier Ex­plor­ers while they were show­ing trav­ellers the ice­bergs in Lake Tas­man. A ter­mi­nal

lake of the Tas­man Glacier

where the ice reg­u­larly breaks off into this wa­ter shed.

Alight­ing from the ma­chine with all my senses hum­ming, feel­ing like I had just ex­pe­ri­enced some­thing sur­real. My pro­fes­sion for­tu­nately has taken me in he­li­copters of­ten how­ever this one was the crown­ing glory. A com­pe­tent pilot, beau­ti­ful he­li­copter with head­phones for com­men­tary, spe­cial nat­u­ral treats and a Na­tional Park that turns it on. Wow I’m back for that one any­time!

Af­ter com­ing down from the Heli­works flight it was off to boat on the lake we had flown across pre­vi­ously to ex­pe­ri­ence the ice­bergs.

Booked from The Her­mitage Ho­tel Glacier Ex­plor­ers run 2 trips a day. How­ever this is sea­sonal and op­er­ates in sum­mer and au­tumn. Taken by their trans­port from The Ho­tel we walk into a jetty and don our life­jack­ets and re­ceive a very in­tense safety brief­ing. It would be min­utes if one fell in this ice-fed lake be­fore hy­pother­mia would en­gulf the body and the rest is his­tory.

The bergs are amaz­ing and the pat­terns of crys­tals dif­fer and glint in the sun­light.

We ap­proach the ter­mi­nal how­ever it is safety that we only go as close as 100 me­ters as the ice can break off and cause mini tsunamis and threaten ones safety.

Our young guide Claire was well versed on the whole ge­o­log­i­cal and sci­en­tific in­for­ma­tion that made for a very in­formed and en­joy­able trip.

It was with re­gret I left this sa­cred place how­ever Lunch at Shaw­tys in Twizel was just some­thing else Twizel is 30 min­utes from Mt Cook and was built as a con­struc­tion town in the six­ties for hy­dro schemes. Twizel is now a re­sort town that boasts this amaz­ing café/restau­rant. I started with a cof­fee a tra­di­tional Flat White, then an­other. The show stealer was the hearty Gumbo Prawn and Chorizo spicy, served with crusty bread and at $12.50 was a deal from heaven. The Macken­zie Coun­try is just an­other ex­cit­ing re­gion with a char­ac­ter like no other.

Thar statue, Lake Pukaki

Ice­berg ex­pe­ri­ence Tas­man glacier

Glacier en­counter

Ao­raki par­adise

Ao­raki/Mt Cook

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