John and Cathy are experienced international RV travelers. They have just returned from exploring New Zealand in a rented campervan and have agreed to blog about their adventures for our readers. Here is the next installment…
If heaven has beautiful views, then we certainly saw a preview in New Zealand–where we just completed a trip to celebrate forty years of marriage. Many people regard New Zealand as the world’s most beautiful country. For Cathy and I, it certainly lived up to these claims. With only about 4.5 million people living on two islands, lots of land is open and there are few cities. Mountains, lakes, valleys and rivers abound and meet you at each of the many bends in the road.
Aoraki / Mount Cook became our favorite view and memory of New Zealand. This mountain lies on the South Island in an area called the Southern Alps. The thrill of driving through these two lane mountain roads, with vistas on both sides, looking up at mountains, and looking down at rugged beaches below, certainly will not be forgotten. The mountain climbs to over 12,000 feet, and seems to be every inch that big, since the valleys that surround it are closer to sea level.
Aoraki / Mount Cook (New Zealand’s highest peak) looms over the Canterbury region of New Zealand in a national park named for the mountain. The Aoraki part of the name comes from the indigenous people, the Maori, and their legend of how the mountain was formed. Cook is the name of the first European to circumnavigate New Zealand.
Aoraki / Mount Cook is snow covered all year round and has several glaciers. We saw the snow covered peak first as we drove into the Southern Alps along the western highway, SH 6. Lake Pukaki and Lake Tekapo reflected the snow cap in their crystal clear water as we drove to our final destination, Christchurch. All along the middle of the west coast the mountain dominates the landscape. This mountain is perhaps the most beautiful that we have ever seen because it rises so precipitously.
Watching the sunset reflecting in Lake Matheson, with the three peaks that make up Aoraki/Mount Cook changing color from white to pink and finally, as the sun went down, to gray, will be a memory forever engraved in our consciousness–and in the fifty or so photographs that I took that night.
One bit of advice, if you travel to New Zealand, bring an extra memory card to download your photographs. You will probably fill up your first one very quickly. I did!