This year (2022) has been a great snowfall season for Roundhill Ski Area, with excellent coverage on the field, and snow right down to lake level when we skied in late July. From Tekapo Village, it was a 34km drive along Lilybank Road beside Lake Tekapo and up the short ski field road. While on the slopes, we were treated to picturesque scenes and saturated colours created by the winter lighting.
Click any image to enlarge.
Lake Tekapo, Godley Valley and the Hall Range, from Lilybank Road
A misty autumn morning in Halswell Quarry Park, a 60 hectare passive recreation area in Christchurch
In the Songpa-Gu (Korean) Garden, one of six sister city gardens
The Lower Wye Creek Track is a steep track that climbs a short distance up The Remarkables Mountain Range. It follows a pipeline through bush to some pretty waterfalls, and affords views over Lake Wakatipu. It is part of the much longer Wye Creek to Lake Alta Track (25km one way). The signposted track is accessed off State Highway 6, about 13km south of Queenstown. After opening an unlocked gate, there is a short drive on an unsealed road up to the carpark. The track is 4.5km (return) with an elevation gain of 430 metres. With some generous stops to enjoy the ambience, the trip took us just over three hours, but could be done much more quickly.
GPS-tracked route (click to enlarge)
The track zig zags up a steep rocky route to a fork. Turn left at the fork to continue up to the Wye Valley and eventually to Lake Alta, near The Remarkables Skifield. Turn right to visit the waterfalls and complete the Lower Wye Creek Track. This section to the waterfalls is no exit.
The complete Roaring Meg Pack Track runs 18 kilometres from the Kawarau Gorge over the Pisa Range to the Cardrona Valley. At the Kawarau Gorge end there are two hydro electric power stations that are fed by the Roaring Meg Dam. The small hydro scheme is a source of interest for this 10.3 kilometre out-and-back section of the Pack Track, which begins on State Highway 6 in the Kawarau Gorge.
GPS-tracked route (click to enlarge)
The poled track can be accessed from the Recreation Reserve on the highway, opposite the lower power station, however this section up to the main track is steep and was somewhat overgrown when we were there . We returned via the main four wheel drive track and a short walk along the highway. The track is maintained for access to the upper power station and has a locked gate at the highway end. This gate also prevents bike access. There is an elevation gain of 530 metres during this walk, and it took around four hours, with a generous lunch stop at the dam.
Lake Alta Track is an easy summer walk in an alpine environment, starting at The Remarkables Skifield base buildings (elevation 1600 metres) and climbing to Lake Alta (1800 metres). After walking up a section of the skifield road from the base buildings, the signposted track passes through alpine wetlands, then a rocky section before the scene opens out to the picturesque glacial lake. The track is 3.7km (return) and it took us around two hours which included considerable time admiring the view at the top. In summer there is a $10 charge at the bottom of the skifield road for road access. In the winter the lake is frozen and covered by snow.
Our GPS-tracked route (click to enlarge)
One of my favourite walks is the Mt John Walkway, an eight kilometre marked circuit affording 360° views of surrounding mountains, lakes and the Mackenzie Basin flats. The images here were taken over three separate trips, all in spring and early summer. The walk takes a leisurely three hours, however fit trail runners can run it in an hour. Total elevation gained is 280 metres.
GPS-tracked route in yellow (click to enlarge)
The track entry is near Tekapo Springs (hot pools) on the outskirts of Tekapo township. If walked in a clockwise direction, the graded track wends it way upwards through larch forest for about 45 minutes before it opens out to grass and tussocklands. After ascending a set of steps, there is a signpost directing a short distance to either the south summit viewpoint or to the main summit where the observatory and cafe are situated. The cafe and observatory can also be accessed by car from Godley Peaks Road. ( Link to a video of track route is at end of post.)
Lake Tekapo from the south summit viewpoint
We took advantage of some lovely autumn weather to walk the Hogs Back Track in the Craigieburn Forest Park, about 90km west of Christchurch on the West Coast Road (SH73). It is a multi-use track for walkers/bikers. It is single track, rated intermediate for mountain bikers .
With the maximum temperature around 13°C and with our day packs containing some food and some warm clothes if needed, we set off at 9.30am for our 5.5 hour trip. This included a lunch break and plenty of stops to admire the view.
Click on any image to enlarge.
We began our 15km out-and-back trip near Castle Hill Village, but another entry point is at the other end of the walk at the Texas Flat car park on the Mt Cheeseman Skifield Road. The walk from Castle Hill starts at around 760 metres and our highest point was 1069 metres. Instead of walking all the way down to Texas Flat, we cut off the track a little early and climbed up onto the Hogs Back Ridge for a great view. The undulating walk passes in and out of beech forest and includes open flats and views to surrounding mountain ranges. We started via the Hogs Back Track (see map) and completed the last part of the return journey on the Easy Up Track, which is longer and less direct than the Hogs Back Track and essentially an easier way up for mountain bikers.
Castle Hill Village and Torlesse Mountain Range
After the first 20 minutes uphill through beech forest the track opens out to a view back to Castle Hill Village.
A house, cut into two pieces, was transported up steep and winding Kennedys Bush Road.
Kaikoura Beach and Seaward Kaikoura Mountains
Kaikoura is on the east coast of the South Island of New Zealand, 180km north of Christchurch. It is a rugged area with mountains, a narrow coastal strip and a peninsula dominating the landscape. The sea is rich in minerals, plankton and marine life, making it an attractive location for historical Maori settlement starting about 800 years ago. The name Kaikoura comes from the Maori language (‘kai’ – food/meal, ‘koura’ – crayfish). European settlement began in 1842 when a whaling station was established (marine mammals are now fully protected in New Zealand).
Kaikoura is now a popular tourist destination for whale watching, deep sea fishing, viewing birdlife, dolphins and colonies of fur seals. However a magnitude 7.8 earthquake in November 2016, affecting the Kaikoura region, caused a halt to tourist activites. A million cubic metres of rock that fell onto the coastal road and rail transport corridor had to be removed. Visitor activity is currently affected by the lack of international tourists in New Zealand due the global pandemic.
It is 10 years since the Christchurch earthquake that devastated
the city centre and cost 185 lives
12.51pm, 22nd February 2021, in remembrance
At 4.35am on 4th September 2010 a magnitude 7.1 earthquake was recorded at Darfield, 40km west of Christchurch. No deaths occurred that were directly related to the quake, there being few houses of unreinforced construction in the area, and at that time of the day few people were out and about.
However, just a few months later at 12.51pm on 22nd February 2011, a magnitude 6.3 earthquake hit Christchurch city. The earthquake was centred only 6.7km from the city centre and at a depth of only 5km. The intense shaking resulted in the destruction of many residences and inner city buildings. In the ten years since, the city has been in recovery mode.