The short flight from Rotorua brought us to the South Island and to the gorgeous city of Christchurch. Christchurch is perched on the east coast and forms the doorway to the Canterbury plains, which spread westwards towards the imposing mountains of Southern Alps. Welcomed by a fine weather, driving into the city and checking into the motel, we could hardly wait to catch the famous TranzAlpine train early morning the next day.
TranzAlpine journey, known to be the one of the world’s most scenic train journeys, was the beginning of our sojourn to view the spectacular landscape of mountains, gorges, snowy peaks, glaciers and lakes of New Zealands glorious West Coast. As the train winds its way into the majestic Alps , the sight of only the rocky mountains, the peaks and the valleys, with streams gushing at some corners, and the silence of the surroundings, would ever inspire anyone to turn philosopher or stir a poets imagination? Bet sure, could. Half way through,when the TranzAlpine crossed the Arthur pass, my daughter Manini suddenly exclaimed, Mummy, JRR Tolkien must have undertaken this journey through mountains before he wrote his epic The Lord of the Rings. Some of the descriptions in the book, so much match the scenery.
Even as the mountains opened into lush green forests, people slowly disembarked in some stoppages and disappeared, and left us wondering how they could form an abode in the mountains. Our destination was also the last stop of the train: Greymouth. This is where the Hertz rental car, too became ours to roam around on our own, with Vish taking over the wheels and a road map for directions. In this region of West Coast, Greymouth appeared as one of the most populated towns with a shopping mall and a few houses in sight.
Pining, longings: first it was for people, now it was for food, which for the first time after arriving in New Zealand, hit our inner bodies, despite that, the stay in Motels gave the luxury of living in a well-furnished house, with enough preparations to cook at least one time meal every day. So, imagine our joy, to have bumped into a north Indian restaurant right on the main road. Kudos to our Indian brethren, who dare to setup business and make home, of these almost no-man lands so far away from home.
Oceanscape at Punakaiki
A feather in the cap in this otherwise gloomy and cold town was Punakaiki, an hour drive along the coast of Tasman Sea. Punakaiki, part of a bigger PaparoaNational Park , was the most picturesque ocean landscape we would have ever seen. The pancake rocks, placed in the vast scenic blue waters have clearly defined layers unfolding the history of their formation. Everyday the massive tides sweep into the pancakes bringing in huge waves of water out of the blow- holes in the rocks sending the tourist crowd into a frenzy of picture shoots. Though hard to leave as tranquil a place as this, it was time to proceed to yet another scenic destination, the mighty Franz Joseph glaciers.
Pancake Rocks in Punakaiki
Franz Joseph and Fox glaciers, the age-old icy fields of the alpine region, with villages at the foothill, are about two and half hours of drive, from Greymouth. Driving close to mountains and glaciers, however, our desire to go hiking on glaciers was thwarted in Franz Josef, as Christmas day was a public holiday, leaving us with no choice other than toproceed to Fox glacier.
The windows of motel in Fox glacier opened to beautiful views of best of the Alpines snowy peaks, Mount Cook and MountTasman. The daylight prompted us to undertake the daring walk to the foot of the glaciers, which by no means gave any spell binding chills of hiking, but, daring it was and scary too: getting a closer view of the awesome age old frozen mountains of ice.Scary, because, of the stillness, quietness of the surroundings, with other than us, four, the fifth being just the glaciers. If water could harden as ice on this part of the mountains since thousands of years, what would have caused the same to form just the fluffy snow on some other side? How nature could be so different in its dexterity, even in similarity. Probably the it is heightwhich matters. With some of such questions lingering in our minds, we left the place to reach our motel before sunset.
The next day started with an early morning drive to LakeMatheson to get a better view of mist covered snowy peaks. This placid lake with still waters offers sharp reflections of the trees and mountainous peaks in the back- drop.
We had much more to see, absorb and capture along the journey as we took off to paradise of New Zealand. Queenstown. The drive to Queenstown was the most spectacular of all our journeys. As we drove through the curvy, windy roads, the best of the mountains, the bluest and greenest of the lakes were as if blessed upon spectacular ranges of Southern Alps.
We just couldn’t have enough of scenic beauty nor could our camera have. The best of photographs were captured .The sun shone bright and fell upon the crystal clear waters of lakes and also on the distant mountains providing very rare hues of shades as also the snowy peaks. Mount Cook and Mount Tasman, which got covered with mist in the morning opened up in all their glory, with the LakeWanaka, LakeHawea, and many more competing with each other in their beauty and tranquility. Not to mention less was the beautiful waterfall through the rocks from the Haast River in the beginning of journey itself.
Our quest for the mountains was to end with Remarkable ranges with yet another beautiful LakeWakatipu at its foothill, at the enchanting Queenstown“
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