If you're thinking of a holiday with some exercise and breathtaking scenery, Jason Dundas may just have the answer: cycling in New Zealand with Adventure South.
His five-day journey began in the shadow of Mt Cook, New Zealand's highest point. Destination Oamaru, 300km away, through the Mackenzie Basin and Waitaki Valley.
That may sound hard going, but knowing there is a comfortable bed and great dinner every night, not much traffic and extraordinary scenery, it's really quite manageable and rewarding. Oh, and there's a bus travelling with you with a support crew and carrying your luggage and food and there's plenty of seating if you need a rest.
Mt Cook, the starting point, is at the heart of New Zealand's alpine country and surrounded by 700 square kilometres of national park.
The views of the Mackenzie Basin are breathtaking. The elliptical intermontane basin measures 100km north to south and 40km east to west. It is sparsely populated and known for sheep farming. It has an enormous area of glacial lakes and the snow-capped mountains are loved by skiers and tourists.
Many rivers cross the basin and there are natural and hydroelectric lakes all adding to the distinctive blue beauty.
Canals, which are part of the hydroelectric scheme, offer rides from Tekapo to Kale Pukaki and on to Lake Ohau.
Mountains, rivers, lakes and farms all add to the beauty of your surroundings, but there is the odd strange sight. It's not hard to see how Elephant Rocks in the Waitaki Valley was named. The huge, limestone boulders in a natural, grassy amphitheatre look for all the world like a resting elephant herd. It's thought they started out as limey sand on the seabed some 24 million years ago.
The black stilt (kaki) is one of the world's rarest wading birds. By 1981 its numbers had dropped to just 23 in the wild. The Black Stilt Recovery program is ensuring numbers are increasing, albeit very, very slowly.
The historical whitestone townscape of Oamaru has some of the country's best-preserved heritage buildings. Lying on the east coast between Dunedin and Christchurch, Oamaru prospered in the 19th century through goldmining, quarrying and timber milling. Much of the wealth was spent on the elegant buildings that remain today.
A must see is the colony of blue penguins. The world's smallest penguins can be seen in the morning or evening as they come and go into the ocean for food. You may also see the yellow-eyed penguins, one of the world's rarest species.
From Mt Cook to the ocean on New Zealand's South Island.
Adventure South five-day Alps to Ocean Cycle Tours are $1150 per person. They include four nights' accommodation, four breakfasts, five lunches and three dinners, internal transport by coach and professional guides. They operate between early November and late April.
Air New Zealand has one-way flights to Christchurch from:
- Sydney and Melbourne $189
- Brisbane $190
- Adelaide $296
- Perth $548
Travel periods and conditions apply.
Prices correct at June 25, 2011.
For further information
Air New Zealand
Ph: 132 476
Ph: 1800 107 060
Visas: Australian citizens do not require a visa to enter New Zealand.
Electricity: 230V at 50Hz using the same plugs as in Australia.
Time zone: GMT +12.
Currency: The New Zealand dollar.
International dialling code: +64.