Tag Archive | New Zealand

Take the High Road Part 1

 When driving between Wanaka and Queenstown there are two routes that can be taken. The more dramatic of the two is the Crown Range Road, the highest main road in New Zealand. At 70 kilometres it’s a shorter journey than the road through Cromwell but with the hairpin bends of the Zigzag and multiple stops to admire the scenery it will definitely take longer.


Just out of Wanaka the hills are resplendent with lupins, growing wild in a rainbow of colours. Cars are parked along the roadsides while travellers become landscape photographers.


The road continues through the old gold mining town of Cardrona, between the Crown and Criffle Ranges and onwards to the summit. At an altitude of 1076 metres the views look across to Queenstown and Lake Wakatipu.


From there it’s all downhill. Hold tight on the winding switchbacks of the Zigzag all the way to the turnoff at Arrow Junction.


To be continued…

It’s a Puzzlement!

I’ve never been a big fan of puzzles. Crosswords will do just that – make me cross, and a jigsaw puzzle is not my idea of fun, so I wasn’t sure that a visit to Puzzling World in Wanaka would be the ideal way to spend an afternoon. But once I saw the Leaning Tower of Wanaka and the Tumbling Towers at the entrance I knew that it was going to be entertaining, intriguing and a whole lot of fun.


There are seven different rooms and activities in the complex. The entrance takes visitors past the Puzzling Café, where perplexing objects are found on every table, and diners are reflected in the kaleidoscope ceiling.


The holograms on display in the Hologram Hall seem to change depending on the angle from which they are viewed. This collection is one of the largest in the world and the 3D images are astounding.


If you feel like someone’s watching you in the Hall of Following Faces you’re not alone. There are 168 faces on the walls, all of them well-known, and it’s a discomforting feeling as they appear to turn and look at everyone.


When viewed from the outside the Ames Forced Perspective Room looks like a normal room. It’s only when people enter that it becomes apparent that all is not what it seems and what is large in one corner becomes tiny in another. This technique was used in “The Lord of the Rings” to create the illusion of small and large creatures.



I wonder how often the words “How did they do that?” are spoken in the Sculptillusion Gallery. More than 20 works of illusion and deception are exhibited. While many are hands-on their secrets are not easily revealed.





The most fascinating room of all is the Tilted House where, even though we are all certain that we are standing upright, our senses tell us otherwise. Water flows uphill and the balls on the billiard table roll up instead of down. It’s compelling and confusing at the same time, and strangers laugh with and at each other.

DSCN5483Back on level ground, outside the Illusion Rooms, is the Great Maze. It’s a labyrinth, the first of its type in the modern world. There are one and a half kilometres of passages, although once inside most people tend to walk between three and five kilometres before finding their way out again. The elevated walkways give a false sense of assurance. The way through the maze looks easy enough to memorise from above but in the passages below each turn looks the same as the one before. There are several exits for those who tire physically or mentally although giving up is not an option for most.


Please don’t ever give me a book of crosswords or a 500 piece jigsaw puzzle. But a visit to Puzzling World…I could do that again.



Worth The Walk

There are more than 3000 glaciers in the South Island of New Zealand and seeing one up close is usually on the must-see list for visitors. Rob Roy Glacier in the Mt Aspiring National Park is one that tourists can easily see – for free and in safety.

From the township of Wanaka it’s an hour’s drive to Mt Aspiring National Park, through spectacular scenery and lush farmland. The last part of the journey is a gravel track with 11 fords, several cattle grids and some very tight turns, but it’s worth the effort to reach the start of the Rob Roy Glacier walking track.


The five kilometre track starts from the Raspberry Creek car park and meanders across the river flats to the suspension bridge across the Matukituki River.



From there it begins to climb uphill – a gentle incline in some places and steeper elsewhere, following the Rob Roy Stream through shaded beech forests carpeted with ferns and mosses.





It’s exciting to reach the first lookout and see the glacier at last.


After leaving the lookout there are still of couple of kilometres of uphill walking. At the head of Rob Roy Valley the forest gives way to alpine plants which grow above the tree line, and at 1000 metres above sea level the viewing point at the end of the track has uninterrupted vistas of Mt Rob Roy and the glacier.


The track can be very busy in Summer but even with large numbers of visitors the area around the viewing point has an air of quiet reflection. Everyone seems to appreciate the grandeur of the scene before them, and their good fortune in being able to witness this amazing natural spectacle in their own space and time.


Nothing To See

When we checked out of our unit on our final morning in Akaroa we asked the manager about the best route to take to State Highway 1. On the map it looked as if we would have to drive all the way back to Christchurch before we headed southwest towards Wanaka. He was very helpful and gave us detailed directions which were easy to follow. His parting comment was: “It’s not a very interesting drive though. There’s nothing much to see.”

We left Banks Peninsula behind and headed west towards the highway. Once we turned left onto the highway we found ourselves travelling parallel to the Southern Alps. After cool overnight temperatures a fresh snowfall adorned the mountaintops.


Rakaia is the salmon capital of New Zealand and home of the Giant Salmon, Salmon World and Salmon Tales Café. The choc chip cookie I had for morning tea in the café rivalled that salmon for size.


After a long drive along the Fairlie-Tekapo road we rounded a corner and there was Lake Tekapo. The beautiful turquoise colour of the lake is caused by “rock flour” – particles of rock ground by glacial movement and suspended in the water.


The Church of the Good Shepherd, the first church in this area, stands on the shore of Lake Tekapo. It was built in 1935 and is placed to take full advantage of the glorious view.



Near the church is a bronze statue of a collie dog which pays homage to the work of the sheepdogs of Mackenzie Country.


Lupins grow wild in this part of New Zealand and there are places where the roadside is a sea of purple, pink and cream. Their colours brighten the stark landscape of the highway between Lake Tekapo and Lake Pukaki.




Finally we reached Wanaka and its lake. Here too the mountains surrounding Lake Wanaka were blanketed with snow and unlike the other lakes the water was a deep, dark blue.


Was the manager correct in his assessment of the five hour drive from Akaroa to Wanaka?

We think not!

Bienvenue à Akaroa!

At a distance of more than 18 000 km New Zealand and France are almost as far apart as it is possible to be. Visit the little town of Akaroa on the South Island of New Zealand however and you could be forgiven for thinking you’ve somehow ended up in France.


On the drive south from Christchurch to the Banks Peninsula your first view of Akaroa and its harbour is breathtaking. The harbour was formed 9 million years ago in a volcanic eruption and is one of the world’s best examples of an eroded crater.


Maori people were the first to settle on the Banks Peninsula about 700 years ago. In 1769, Captain James Cook and the crew of The Endeavour were the first Europeans to sight land here although they continued on their voyage without stopping. They were followed by European whalers in the 1830s. In 1838 Captain Jean François Langlois persuaded the local Maori to sell most of the peninsula to him for 1000 francs. He returned to France and established a company with the purpose of setting up a French colony on the peninsula. By January 1840 the ship Comte-de-Paris set sail from Rochefort with 53 French and German colonists on board. A naval warship L’Aube, under Captain Charles François Lavaud, sailed from Brest to provide protection for the settlers.

The colonists arrived in Akaroa on 17 August 1840 only to find that their plans for a French settlement had been thwarted by the English, who had claimed the South Island of New Zealand as a British colony under the Treaty of Waitangi. Captain Owen Stanley of the Britomart had raised the Union Jack at Green’s Point just six days before.



The colonists were undeterred and decided to stay, and Akaroa became the only town in New Zealand to be settled by the French. Today their influence is evident in the names of the streets and businesses in the town.

The old French burial ground on L’Aube Hill is marked by a plaque which acknowledges these pioneers and their contribution to the town.




So as you wander along Rue Lavaud munching on your freshly baked baguette, or sip a coffee at one of the many cafés, close your eyes and for a moment you might just be transported to a tiny village in the heart of France.

The Giant’s House

Once upon a time in the land of New Zealand, a small child looked up at a beautiful house on a hill above the town of Akaroa. The child announced that the house was so large a giant must live there, and “Linton” became known as “The Giant’s House”.


Linton was built in 1880 for the town’s first bank manager. Its entrance hall features a mahogany staircase which was specially imported from France and in keeping with that the rest of the house was decorated in French style. The house is now a luxury B&B owned by renowned artist Josie Martin.


Josie’s presence is evident in the garden surrounding the house. Terraces of roses, perennials and summer annuals mingle randomly with vegetables and fruit trees. The garden beds overflow with colours which are mirrored in the amazing mosaic sculptures on every terrace. Staircases patterned with mosaicked creatures lead from one level to another and around every corner are more larger than life characters.



From the highest terrace the views of Akaroa harbour and the hills of Canterbury are as expansive as the house.


What more could a giant ask for?

Weekly Photo Challenge – Illumination



Last week we hiked on Fox Glacier in the South Island of New Zealand. Our guide Dean found this ice cave, chipped out some steps, attached the knotted rope into the wall of ice and gave us instructions on how to make our way down into the cave. The only light in the cave came from the opening. The blue colour occurs because all the other colours in the spectrum have been absorbed by the densely packed ice and the further the light travels past the ice the deeper the blue glow becomes.