On the road to the tallest mountain in New Zealand you can take in all the striking blue glory of Lake
Pukaki. The Highway leads along its shore, crossing farmland and logging forest. The stunning colour of the lake created by
minerals washed down from the mountains makes you overlook the
not so pretty wasteland of choppped trees around it.
becomes clearer and taller with every mile and slowly you can guess
how big the snowy peaks actually are. With its 3724 meters, Mt Cook towers over the few houses in the valley.
On our way through
Waitaki Valley towards Mount Cook there where some nice spots we stopped shortly to enjoy the landscape. Some of them were old Maori rock paintings - sadly, most of them are faded already, but here and there an info panel shows how they have looked like.
country along the road offers some fascinating rock formations the
Kiwi ancestors used for shelter.
Just another small
town along the highway? Not at all! Oamaru is the most amazing town
we have seen so far. Before you enter it, an old rusty tank announces
the entrance of the 'Steampunk Capital of NZ'. That made us curious,
but we thought it is just a small movement of Steampunks
who take that claim because they are the only ones to represent that
style in Kiwi country. It does look like any other small town at first – but
as soon as you get closer to the waterfront, it reveals its magic.
Whole streets consist of victorian style buildings with beautiful
ornaments, artful pillars and rustic wooden interior. Old carriages
stand in the middle of the street and from time to time you see
someone riding a 19th century style bicycle (huge front wheels, tiny rear wheels) as if it were completely normal. The oldest street is
filled with shops selling handmade wares of all kinds – here
you get the first glimpses of Steampunk jewellery and clothing, and
the shop owners proudly present their wares by wearing them.
Vintage cars are
found on every corner, not only for watching but for everyday use, as
is common in New Zealand (everything that doesn't literally fall
apart gets a warrant of fitness here). Rounding the streetcorner to
the wharf, some seemingly random industrial gear stands rusting on
the railway lines and lies scattered around it. At a closer look you
find the aging metal painted or otherwise turned into artworks.
The Yellow Eyed
Penguin colony next to the lighthouse in Moeraki town is an amazing
opportunity to see the waddling birds up close, especially in the
hours before sunset when they come ashore and present themselves
without any fear of the gawking humans on the other side of the
When you arrive at
the lighthouse, there is one path with a little gate going straight
down to the ocean – the one on the right leading along the fence is
the better one, because there you can spot the young ones on their
hideouts and later on their favourite places at the rocky shore.
Moeraki is a quiet
fishing village on the east coast north of Dunedin, with not much
more than a holiday park and a bar representing the town centre.
Don't let yourself be fooled, though – it has much more to offer.
Heading off the
highway just before Dunedin, we wound our way along the countless
little bays of the Otago Peninsula. It is a nice road to get a good
look at the city over the harbour, surrounded by soft hills to either
side. At the end of the peninsula, New Zealand's wildlife offers a
good evening's entertainment – unfortunately it's the humans who
charge you for seeing it. The Royal Albatross centre, the Penguin
colony and most of the viewing possibilities nearby cost entry, and
are not very cheap. Though, if you are lucky, you can get a good
close up look at the winged giants from a viewing platform next to
the carpark. It was quite fascinating to watch them hovering through
the air, soaring high without the faintest move, only lifted by the
wind in their huge wings. They made the little seagulls around them
seem really pathetic with their constant fluttering.
Having seen all
the stunning landscapes around Queenstown and Milford, the Southern
Scenic Route felt a bit boring in comparison. It leads south from Te
Anau down to the Coast, through paddocks, fields and some more
paddocks. The country flattens toward the ocean and opens the view to
the endless farmland.