Mt. Cook, Otago Peninsula & Dunedin

My latest adventure started in Lake Tekapo to go stargazing because the Mackenzie area was declared an International Dark Sky Reserve in 2012 and it is only 1 of 10 in the world.  Under these pollution free skies the stars were so bright and I even saw the milky way.  I definitely plan to head back to this area again.

Up next I was off to Mt Cook National Park where I went kayaking in the terminal lake of the Tasman Glacier.  We spent about 5 hours for the whole trip and I would say we spent at least 3 of those hours on the water.  The water itself was freezing cold and there were some pretty neat icebergs that we got really close to and were able to touch. Our guide Ant Harris was even able to flip one of the smaller icebergs with his kayak.  Although there were clouds in the sky we couldn’t see the top of Mt. Cook from the water but when were done and back at the cafe the cloud cleared up enough that we were able to get pictures and see the top.  Over all it was a pretty cool experience to be so close to icebergs and be on a terminal lake of a melting glacier.  From Mt. Cook I headed south east towards the coast where I stopped at some natural clay cliffs in Omarama which were really cool.  It looked like something out of a movie.  These cliffs run along the Ostler fault line and are the result of two million years of erosion.  That pretty much was all of day 1 except for a bit more driving to my accommodation in Omaru.

Day two was spent driving down the east coast.  First stop of the day was at the Moeraki boulders.  These boulders are spherical in nature and are scattered along the beach.  It is interesting to see what nature can produce on its own.  From the boulders I continued south to Dunedin and the Otago Peninsula.  My next stop was an hour tour of a wildlife reserve on the Otago Peninsula which happened to be my own personal tour as I was the only one who booked a tour that morning.  The views from the top of the peninsula were amazing to say the least and the wild seal colony was pretty cool to see too.  I did see some penguins who were malting as well.  From here I headed into Dunedin to the historic train station to catch the Taieri Gorge Railway scenic tour.  We passed through countless tunnels, over bridges, through gorges and viaducts and the scenery was amazing.  Most of the places we saw on the train were only accessible by train and no vehicles could get to those places.  The train trip took 4 hours which took most of the afternoon but it was worth it.

Day three was a big driving day as I had to get back to Oxford but before I headed out I stopped to see St. Paul’s Cathedral and Knox Church in the city centre which had awesome architectural features.  From here I headed out of town to Tunnel Beach which had a killer walking track.  This track was very steep and the way down was alright as it was downhill but coming back up took twice as long and made your legs kill.  The views were totally worth it though and the hand made tunnel that John Cargill built from hand-hewn stone was pretty cool to see and walk through down to the beach.  Once I recovered from my walk back up the hill I drove to Baldwin street which is the steepest street in the world according to the Guinness Book of World Records.  I was tempted to climb it as well but I didn’t think my legs could make it so I will just have to go back and climb it.  From here I made the 5 hour drive back to Oxford which had some pretty cool views of the Pacific Ocean.



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