When we were planning our New Zealand trip back in the summer of 2017 there were a few ‘special’ places that we just couldn’t miss revisiting and Twizel was one of them. To be more accurate it was the couple that we Airbnb’d with and we were on our way there again.
Return to Twizel
Our drive from the impossible-to-pronounce Waianakurua along highway 83 was an adventure in itself (Diverse North Otago) but we were really looking forward to seeing our old friends Bruce and Jeanette once again. Two years ago we spent a couple of nights with them and just loved their friendly attitude and their relaxed way of life and would now be with them for another 3 nights. After a tasty pizza in the rock’n roll bar Ministry of Works we headed over to ‘The Nest‘ for a long awaited reunion.
The house is an amazing reworking of three shipping containers and has so much character and style that it may well be the best Airbnb we’ve ever stayed in (I probably say that about all of them though). The gardens all around it include a walnut orchard, chicken run for over 100 chickens, bee hives, olive trees, almond trees, pheasants, polytunnels full of fruit, and a turkey. A fabulous pace to stay with fabulous people.
Mount Cook / Aoraki and the Hooker Valley Walk
Our first full day in Twizel was planned months ago, we were off to New Zealands highest mountain Mount Cook (Aoraki in Maori). Situated at the northern end of Lake Pukaki it’s 12,218 feet high and is in the middle of the Southern Alps mountain range that runs right down the south island. What is really strange is that you can see the mountain from the west coast which is where we passed a few weeks ago (Lakes and Glaciers of the Southern Alps).
An hours drive beside the lake up past Mount Cook Lodge took us to the start of the Hooker Valley Track. The road stops here, you can’t go any further and it’s a curious collection of campervans and tents, hikers, and the odd tourist coach. Once again we had a roasting hot day with the bluest sky imaginable as we loaded up with water, food, and sunscreen. I even took my hat with me as it was so hot! Lasted about 4 minutes on my head but that’s pretty good isn’t it?
The Hooker Valley Track is a 10km return walk to the base of Mount Cook which takes around 3 hours and winds past Mount Sefton alongside Mueller Lake towards the Hooker River. There are three swing bridges across the river as it winds it’s way up the valley finishing at the spectacular Hooker Lake with jaw-dropping views of Mount Cook and the Southern Alps.
When you first leave the car park and camping ground the path is fairly busy and it doesn’t feel much like a remote wilderness track but there is a lookout a few hundred yards along that the majority of the day tripper/coach visitor types seem to head for. Once past the lookout the crowds disappear and only the serious hikers remain. Result.
It’s so difficult to describe what a fantastic walk this is. Hiking through the mountains over glacial rivers with views to die for is just the greatest feeling ever and it’s one of the most fantastic walks we have ever done, ever.
Reaching the edge of Hooker Lake and stopping to take in the majesty of the mountains is really a special moment to savour. We found a spot right on the edge of the glacial lake for a picnic and some contemplation. One of the problems with this place is that you just can’t stop taking photos in every single direction, there is beauty all around. It’s incredible.
All too soon it’s time to start back but that return walk is every bit as good because the scenery is different. With the sun still beating down we tramped back over the three bridges towards the track start but this time we had spectacular views of the Sealy Range to enjoy.
A final detour up to see the monument to fallen climbers on Mount Cook before reaching Dexy in the car park.
The Tasman Glacier
On the way out of the valley there is a little turning up to the Tasman Glacier that everyone seems to either ignore or miss. Bruce recommended that we make the effort to go so we obviously dived off and headed up another valley. The glacier is several hundred feet above the car park so a horrendous climb up hundreds of steep lung-busting steps was the only way of getting there. I’m not sure we have ever been so out of breath as it was so steep and so long but we made the top and the views were once again incredible. Sad to see how much these glaciers have receded over recent years though.
What a day, one of our favourite JWalking days ever. What else could we do when we got back to Bruce and Jeanettes? It had to be a few beers and a BBQ of course to finish off our day in real style.
Our host Bruce is a teacher at Twizel School and took us in on Sunday morning to have a tour around the school and to see the project that he and his pupils completed before Christmas. They built a hovercraft! A proper fully-working hovercraft. Jo couldn’t resist a go and Bruce fired up the engine and the air as she held on. Amazing.
That’s what you call a project isn’t it? They were featured on New Zealand TV and all over the national newspapers. (Twizel Area School students build a Hovercraft ). Apparently this years project is going to be a Jetpack. The students were so taken with Bruce and his teaching that they nominated him for a ‘Good Sorts’ award which is awarded by New Zealands main TV channel. How touching must that have been? Good Sorts: Bruce White
After our busy hiking day and school tour we decided to head out to Twizels nearby lake and just relax in the sunshine with a couple of good books and a few snacks. Jeannette lent us a couple of comfy chairs and we just had the laziest afternoon ever by the edge of Lake Ruataniwha reading and watching the rowers.
Aren’t we the sociable ones?
Our last evening in Twizel and we just didn’t want to leave. Places like this make you re-evaluate and consider how you live your life. That last evening sitting in the garden sharing a few beers and a few more stories with Jeannette and Bruce was fabulous and we also enjoyed meeting their other Airbnb guests from South Korea. Two young teachers called Sora and Ju Wang were just finishing their 3 week NZ tour and in the middle of our conversation we learnt some interesting and amazing things.
The strangest, which neither of us had ever heard, was that Koreans have a different age to the rest of the world. I asked Sora how old she was and she replied ‘I’m 28 in Korean but internationally I’m 26’. Huh? She explained that babies are 1 year old the minute they are born and then that everyone in South Korea ages by a year on January 1st. The things you learn whilst travelling.
19/01 – 22/01/2018