Aoraki

Yesterday was mainly a travel day across the beltline of Aotearoa. We boarded our trusty minibus ‘Frank’ at Christchurch, and set off to the west across the fertile Cantabrian plains.

Everyone associates New Zealand with sheep country, and the reputation is well deserved. There are something like ten sheep for every human in this nation of over four million people. What you might not know is that there are also at least three head of cattle for every Kiwi. They are predominantly dairy cattle (Holsteins and Jerseys), but with a healthy population of beef animals (mainly Black Angus and Herefords). The cattle roam the same sorts of plots as the sheep, and they seem quite content to climb some serious grades in search of greener pastures. Next time you buy powdered milk or beef jerky, chances are it might be a Kiwi product.

While seated on the bus, watching farm after farm pass by my window, I played my Hoser Rock playlist. Songs like “The Bleeding Heart Show” by the New Pornographers, “Heading for Nowhere” by Jets Overhead, “This Wreck of a Life” by Sam Roberts, “Trust Yourself” by Blue Rodeo, and the inescapable “Safety Dance” by Men Without Hats provided the playlist. Old musical friends of mine were given a brand new visual context.

It’s a long way from Christchurch to Braemar Station, but the journey is worth every revolution of the tires. Fate, and the late afternoon sun, shone brightly on us as we rolled into the shearer’s quarters at this remote 40,000 acre sheep and cattle ranch. Behind Lake Pukaki lay the uninterrupted majesty of the snow-capped Southern Alps. This photograph doesn’t fully do justice to the jaw-dropping vista, but have a gander anyway.

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Today, we zipped around the shore of the lake to go on a hike at the feet of New Zealand’s highest peaks. In the alpine wonderland where the legendary Sir Edmund Hillary cut his teeth, part of our group hiked up to the Sealy Tarns. Beyond the tarns, we could not make it all the way up to the Mueller alpine hut because of deep snow. But the views from about 1100 vertical metres above our trailhead were still sublime.

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At left, with the snow-covered face, is Mount Sefton. The cloud-piercing summit to the left-of-centre is Mount Cook, more correctly known by its Maori name – Aoraki.

Views like this make every step of the hike (and every tedious hour on various planes, trains and automobiles) completely worthwhile.

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