New Zealand – Southern Island – On our way to Mt Cook

RO: O fi Invercargill cel mai sudic oras al Noii Zeelande, de-aproape da mana cu vecina Antarctica daca face un salt usor peste insula Stewart, insa pare asa de parasit de lume, ca zici c-am fost teleportati in timp, mai dupa 1860, dupa ce-au dat bir cu fugitii toti imigrantii scotieni. Dupa ce-au golit pamanturile de tot aurul gasit in Epoca de Aur, care va sa zica 😀 Pentru ce-o avea orasul asta drumurile late, de trei benzi pe sens, cand nu-i tipenie de om pe strada, nici ca putem intelege! Or fi numai 4,5 milioane de locuitori in toata tara, si peste 30% or locui in regiunea Auckland, dar chiar asa uitat de lume sa fie bietul Invercargill?! Are ceva cladiri istorice europene, biserici de caramida, restaurante si magazinase, insa parca nimic nu te-atrage sa ramai mai mult de-o noapte in zona. Poate doar o fuga pana-n Bluff, chipurile cel mai sudic punct al Noii Zeelande, cu privelisti frumoase si-un indicator galben pozat si raspozat de turisti la Stirling Point. Atata doar ca cineva a uitat de cea de-a treia insula a tarii, micuta Stewart. Abia acolo-i cel mai sudic punct al Noii Zeelande 🙂 Dar macar acum stim la ce se refera poporul kiwian cand foloseste expresia “de la Capul Reinga la Bluff”, practic dintr-un capat la celalalt al tarii. Si apropo, aviation-geeks-ii nostri ne spun ca exista chiar si un raliu aviatic de la Capul Reinga, cel mai nordic punct al tarii, pana-n sud la Bluff, in care avioanele mici se iau la intrecere printre norii ‘ai cei albi si lungi ai Aoteaorei, cum ii spun maorii Noii Zeelande.

EN: Invercargill might be the southernmost point of New Zealand, and it almost shakes hands with the neighboring Antarctica if it jumps just a little bit oven Stewart island, but it looks so deserted as if we would have been transported in time, back to 1860, after all the Scottish immigrants have ran away. Of course, after emptying the lands of all the gold that was found in the Golden Era 😀 Why are there in this city three lnes wide roads, when there is no one on the street, we honestly can’t explain. There might be only 4,5 million citizens in this country, out of which more than 30% live in the Auckland area, but is Invercargill so unfrequented as it seems? There are a couple of European historical buildings, brick churches, restaurants and few shops, but nothing makes one stay more than one night here. Maybe just a short visit to Bluff, the so called southernmost point of New Zealand, with nice views and an overrated by tourists yellow sign at Stirling Point. Just that someone has forgotten about the third island of the country, the small Stewart Island 🙂 That’s the actual southernmost point of New Zealand! But at least we now know what the Kiwi people mean when they use the expression “from Cape Reinga to Bluff”, basically from one point of the country to the other. And by the way, our aviation geeks tell us that there is even an aviation rally from Cape Reinga, the northernmost point of the country, to Bluff, where small airplanes are competing with each other through the white and long clouds of Aoteaora, as the Maori people call the country.
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RO: Dar muntele Cook ne-astepta si deja suntem in intarziere. O luam spre Omarama cu determinare si rabdare, ca doar avem ditamai drumul de parcurs, insa cumva-cumva ne lasam furati de tentatiile de pe drum si-oprim la Mandeville. Ca ne-au sarit in ochi Muzeul de Aviatiei de la Croydon si zborurile cu avioanele vintage si atelierul de restaurat avioane vechi. Nu ne ies planurile cu zborul cu avionul, pare-se ca pilotul (da, unicul pilot :D) e bolnav si nu poate pilota. Halal zi si-a gasit boala domnului pilot sa intre in actiune, taman cand ceru-i senin de nu vezi o urma de norisor si cand afara-s peste 25 de grade. Parca am mai spus de un milion de ori pana acum ca in zona aceasta ploua cel putin 200-250 de zile pe an, nu? 😀 In orice caz, ne cam surade ideea de a ne transpune prin anii ’20-’30 (daca tot am inceput cu intoarcerea in Epoca de Aur la Invercargill, de ce nu?), si vizitam muzeul.

EN: But Mount Cook is waiting for us and we’re already late. We’re heading to Omarama determined and patiently, as we have a looong way ahead, but somehow we’re tempted by all the attractions alongside, so there we are at Mandeville. As the Croydon Aviation Museum and the vintage airplane flights and also the workshop for restoring the old airplanes caught our eyes. Unfortunately we don’t seem to be able to fly with the vintage airplanes, as the pilot (the only pilot :D) is sick and cannot fly today. What a day has this illness chosen to come into action, precisely when the sky is clear, no trace of clouds and 25 degrees! Did we say already that in this area it rains at least 200-250 days per year?  Anyway, sounds like a good idea to go back in time, around 1920-1930 (we already started doing this with the Golden Era at Invercargill, so why not?) and we’re visiting the museum.
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RO: Si-apoi gata, chiar suntem pregatiti pentru un drum intins pana la Omarama. Dar cum-necum ne lasam iarasi furati de peisaj si heeeei, dam de cel mai cel burg al insulei sudice! Roxburgh, patria livezilor de fructe (mai ales caise, ca doar nu degeaba sunt simbolul orasului) si-a celor mai bune placinte de pe planeta! Jimmy’s Pie, recomandarea Lonely Planet-ului, troneaza la margine de drum intr-o magazie micuta care nu-ti sare in ochi nici cand esti langa ea, dar are cele mai grozave placinte pe care le-a vazut omenirea. Facem stocul pentru mai tarziu, nu de alta, dar sigur nu gasim vreun “diner” la piciorul lui Mt. Cook, macar s-avem provizii hipercalorice pentru cand incepem marea escaladare. Glumim, nici de-am fi alpinisti profesionisti nu am reusi sa escaladam muntele Cook, dar… vrabia malai viseaza 😀 Si tot vrabia cauta pretexte sa mai infulece o placinta cu caise.

EN: And then we’re ready for good for a long way to Omarama. But somehow we’re detouring again and heeeey we just arrived in the coolest “burg” in all southern island! Roxburgh, the land of orchards (especially apricots, as this is the symbol of the city) and the best pies in the world! Jimmy’s Pies, Lonely Planet recommendation, is on the sidewalk, in a small shack that you can barely notice when you pass next to it, but has the best pies the mankind has ever seen! We’re filling up for later in the day, as we’ll probably not gonna find any kind of “diner” at the foot of Mount Cook, at least to have some hyper-caloric stock for the climbing. We’re kidding, we wouldn’t be able to climb this mountain, not even if we would have been professional climbers. But hey, we’re dreaming with the eyes wide open. And we’re trying to find another reason to eat some more pies!
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RO: Mai facem un popas rapid pe marginea raului Clutcha, in satul Clyde, ca doar de, imbuibarea cu ciresele si caisele cumparate din Roxburgh e prea tentanta, apoi gata, ajungem la Ahuriri Motels, in Omarama. Adevarul e ca spre deosebire de motelurile canadiene (ca-n cele americane inca n-am ajuns), cele din Noua Zeelanda arata foarte bine.

EN: And yet another fast stop along the river Clutcha, in Clyde village, as what can we do… the overindulgence with the cherries and apricots bought from Roxburgh is way too tempting, and then we’re arriving to Ahuriri Motels, in Omarama. The truth is that unlike the Canadian motels (we haven’t tried the American ones yet), the ones from New Zealand look really nice.
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RO: Iar daca tot avem inca lumina, trantim bagajele in usa si dusi suntem catre Mt. Cook. Ne sare-n ochi o crescatorie de somon la Twizel (High Country Salmon), si parca-parca zarim deja piscul inzapezit al muntelui Cook. Pai cum sa nu-l vezi din departare, cand se mandreste cu statutul de cel mai inalt munte neozeelandez, la cei peste 3700 de metri pe care ii are? Cum sa nu ii vezi crestele abrupte si semete la capat de drum? Si cum sa nu te-opresti taman in mijlocul strazii sa-l pozezi pana umpli cardul? Dar numai bine ajungem la Peters Lookout. Aaah, si valea-i intunecata iar soarele-i deja pe dupa munti. Doar varful muntelui Cook straluceste in lumina de aur de dinainte de apus.

EN: And if we still have light outside, we’re throwing the luggage in the middle of the room and we’re going to Mt Cook! A salmon farm at Twizel (High Country Salmon) catches our eyes and it seems that we can already see the snow-bound peak of Mt Cook. How could one not see it from far, far away, when this is the tallest peak in New Zealand, with more than 3700 meters height? How could one not see its steep  crests at the end of the road? And how could one not stop in the middle of the street to photograph it until the camera card is full? And there we are at Peters Lookout. Aaaah, the valley is already darken and the sun is hiding after the mountains. Just the peak of Mt Cook is shinning in the golden hour at sunset.
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RO: Gonim pana ajungem la baza muntelui si-o luam rapid spre ghetarul Tasman. Un traseu scurt, de 15 minute pana sus. Si-apoi lacul Tasman in toata splendoarea lui in fata noastra. Undeva in departare, intre piscurile muntilor, se vede urma ghetarului Tasman, iar mai aproape, capatul sau, acoperit de un strat negru de sedimente cazute de pe muntii dimprejur. E de prisos sa mai spunem ca si aici, la fel ca in Islanda si alte locuri prin lume, incalzirea globala isi face de cap si topeste ghetarul in mod vizibil an de an, cu intre 500 si 800 de metri pe an. In zece ani de acum in colo e de asteptat ca ghetarul sa se retraga cu cel putin 4 km. Si adevarul e ca te cam lasa masca, si ghetarul, si incalzirea globala, dar mai ales intreaga priveliste si linistea deplina din jur. Nici urma de picior de om la ora asta, intreaga valea Tasmana e a noastra. Iar cerul, Doamne… cerul e ca pictat!

EN: We’re driving like crazy until we get to the base of the mountain and then we’re heading to Tasman Glacier. A short track, 15 minutes until we get to the top. And then the Tasman lake in all its glory in front of us. Somewhere at distance, between the peaks of the mountains we can still the remnant of the Tasman Glacier, and here, closer to us, the end of it, covered by a black layer of sediments fallen from the surrounding mountains. Needless to say that here, as in Iceland and many other places in the world, the global warming kicks over the traces and melts the glacier in an alarming way each year (500-800 meters of ice are melt each year). In ten years from now the glacier will probably retreat 4 km. And the truth is that this is quite shocking… the glacier itself, the global warming, but especially the scenery and the complete tranquility that surrounds us. No other persons around at thisate hour, the entire Tasman valley is all ours. And the sky, oh Geez… the sky seems to be painted!
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RO: Si de parca n-ar fi fost suficient c-am ramas si fara grai si fara orice fel de expresie in fata ghetarului Tasman, la apus de soare, drumul inapoi catre motelul Ahuriri ne mai loveste inc-o data. Sa fie treaba, treaba, nu asa. Ne-arata ea Noua Zeelanda ca nicio alta tara din tot Pamantul asta mare nu i se asemuieste. Iar daca-n miezul zilei Stapanul Cerului (nu al inelelor) este norul cel alb si lung, care a dat si numele maor al tarii (Aoteaora) si care-si plimba pufosenia peste toate varfurile semete ale Alpilor de Sud, pe timp de noapte isi ia talpasita si face loc unui alt spectacol. Asa ca-n mijloc de sosea, printr-un parbriz murdar si plin de muste, se-arata un cer negru si impanzit de stele, de parc-ar fi scapat vreun Picasso borcanul cu sclipici. Pai doar n-o fi degeaba insula sudica renumita pentru cerul fascinant si tururile de star gazing. Si cum de-o fi posibil sa vezi din mijloc de sosea, Calea Lactee? Si constelatia Crux, Crucea de Sud, pe care nu o vezi niciodata la nord de 20 de grade latitudine nordica? Ei bine, noroc cu constelatiile sclipitoare de pe cerul sudic, asa aflam si noi de unde si pana unde steagul Noii Zeelande are pe langa steagul Marii Britanii (doar n-o fi sa uite de chinuiala englezului James Cook de a descoperi pamanturile neozeelandeze) si patru stele, trei apropiate si una mai la sud. Pai stelele sunt fix Crucea de Sud pe care o vedem acum deasupra noastra! Intr-adevar, Raiul chiar pare mai aproape de Pamant in Noua Zeelanda.

EN: And as being speechless at sunset in front of the Tasman Glacier wouldn’t be enough, our way back to Ahuriri motel strikes again. To have a complete experience, of course. New Zealand really wants to prove us that no country in this world is alike! And if during the day the Lord of the Sky (not the rings :D) is the long white cloud which named the country (Aoteaora in Maori language) and wanders its fluffiness all over the high peaks of the Southern Alps, during the night another show begins. So in the middle of the road, through a dirty and full of flies windscreen, we can see a completely dark sky, studded with stars, as if Picasso would have thrown a jar of glitter on it. Well that explains why the southern island is so famous for its fascinating sky and the star gazing tours. It’s amazing that we can see the Milky Way from the middle of the road! And the Crux constellation, the Southern Cross which can never be seen from the Northern Hemisphere at more than 20 degrees latitude. Oh well, thanks to the shinny constellations from the southern sky we find out the meaning of New Zealand’s flag. Not only that there is the Great Britain’s flag included (oh well, they will probably won’t forget James Cook’s struggle to find the Kiwi lands), but it also has four stars, three of them close to each other and the other one more to the south. Well these are precisely the stars forming the Southern Cross which we are now seeing above us! Indeed, Heaven does seem closer to Earth in New Zealand.
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