Moment of awesome
The Holland Heineken House is undoubtedly one of the best things to come out of the Netherlands. For those who are not aware of the concept: at the Olympic Games there is a pop-up party house where Dutch athletes receive an honorary celebration for winning medals, followed by a party sponsored by Heineken. Nothing like having a beer with your Dutch friends after your sensational achievement! Although it’s still on my bucket list, chances are I will never make it to the Olympics. Yet, I did have my Holland Heineken House experience this week. Accompanied by my Dutch camping neighbor, Luc, I set out to hike up to the Mueller Hut. The hike overlooks NZ’s highest mountain – Mt. Cook. At our first lookout point, we met a fellow Dutchman named Tosse. About five seconds after we introduced ourselves, Tosse screamed in ecstasy. He found the beer he packed for when he reached the summit that he completely forgot about. The view was so amazing at our first lookout, he decided to pop open the bottle and share his golden cylinder of joy with us. IT WAS AWESOME!
Note: the above photo depicts a recent trend of “taking a picture of someone taking a picture”. We took it three steps further.
Read more to see my morning shower arrangement at Lake Wanaka, and how we dealt with a rainy day. Read More
We had a slow start of the week with a rainy day at Lake Wanaka. During our travels we have been trying to follow the sun, but sometimes you just need to sit out a rainy day. Those are usually opportunities to do some reading, catch up on messages, or start writing blog posts. Being stuck in a big city is usually not a problem as there is plenty of things to do and people to meet. Unfortunately for us, we were in Wanaka; a sleepy town that offers little more than an ice cream shop, a grocery store, and a movie theater. In an effort to fight boredom, we visited all three of these local highlights. The movie theater was actually quite nice. It had comfortable chairs (you know, the ones you actually have at home) and the freshly-baked ginger cookies we bought during the break were unlike any I have ever had.
Anticipating a day of bad weather at Mt. Cook, we decided to visit Lake Tekapo first. We were astonished by the color of the water! Unlike the murky waters of the Netherlands, Lake Tekapo was as light blue as you see in travel guides. Tekapo was, remarkably, smaller than Wanaka and really the only thing to do out there was to take a relaxing dip into the local Hot Springs. After an absolutely freezing night on our primitive hilltop campsite, we made our way to Mt. Cook. The scenery on the drive to Mt. Cook Village was so stunning that it made us get out of the car to snap some photos. It was a sign of things to come. The closer we got to the mountains, the more baffled we were by its beauty. The days before our arrival it had been raining and snowing, causing small avalanches on the mountain. On my hike, we could actually hear ice and rocks crack under the weight of the snow, often followed by falling snow and ice from the face of the mountain. It was a very surreal phenomenon, presumably excelled by global warming (just like the sight of a glacier that has almost completely molten in the course of a few decades).
After two amazing days at Mt. Cook, we continued to Christchurch where the weather did not exactly remind us of summer. We had a few lazy days we filled with reading, checking out the local forest first (see below), and a short hike at Taylor’s Mistake. This Monday we have planned to spent a day at the French-influenced town of Akaroa. Tuesday I part from my beloved travel buddies to fly up to Auckland. I will be staying there until my departure on 2 April.
Panoramic view on Mt. Cook, the valley, and Lake Pukaki
Diamond lake at the start of the Rocky Mountain Walk, near Lake Wanaka
Like so many nations New Zealand is experiencing the effects of global warming. Heavy droughts, a lack of rain, and strong winds have caused a forest fire just southeast of the country’s third biggest city; Christchurch. Though not as destructive or sizable as those in Australia, the fires have led to the evacuation of several neighborhoods – the ones that are slowly recovering from the last natural disaster to hit the city (the 2011 earthquake). An area of roughly 2000 hectares has been burned, one helicopter pilot has died, and numerous homes have been lost. On the bright side, the recently opened Christchurch Adventure Park has escaped unscathed. The fires have had a financial impact as well. Each helicopter runs at 2,500NZ$ per hour, with 4 – 15 helicopters operating 14 hours a day.
Unexpectedly, we were somewhat closely involved to the news as our AirBnB was located right next to the fires. Our host showed us the smoldering hills and mentioned they had evacuated earlier this week. Even more unreal was when I was invited by one of her neighbors for a glass of wine to watch the helicopters extinguish the fires from her porch. I took the below time lapse video (38sec.) of the unusual aerial activity.
A word of wisdom
“What do you spend your time, energy, and money on? Those are the true tests of what we value regardless of what we like to tell ourselves. If we aren’t willing to pay a price for our values, if we aren’t willing to make some sacrifices in order to realize them, then we should ask ourselves whether we truly believe in them at all.”
Barack Obama – American politician in his book ‘The Audacity of Hope’