Monday, May 05, 2014
New Zealand - Lake Tekapo & The Smallest Plane I've Ever Been In
The next day was my trip to Lake Tekapo. I actually tried to book a day tour which would bring me to Mt. Cook but that got cancelled because I was the only one signing up for that, so sad right? Was really demoralized with the cancellation since that meant I needed to plan something else and do things on my own. Was even sadder when reading an Indonesian girl's blog which said that she took a helicopter ride from Mt. Cook that has snow landing. That was really cool. Unfortunately her trip is her own and my journey had to be different. The most reasonable plan was to go to Lake Tekapo because if I made it all the way to Mt. Cook, I wouldn't have much time to explore before having to go back and I wouldn't get to explore Lake Tekapo. Upon googling for Lake Tekapo, I found out that there's Air Safari which with its small planes can take you high up to see Mt.Cook, Tasman Glacier, Franz Josef Glacier, and Fox Glacier and pretty much many other things that I couldn't remember. On a whim, I emailed Air Safari and asked if it would be possible for me to take the flight. While they responded kindly, they also said that they needed 4 people for the flight to go and I was alone and there's no booking at that time yet. Suffice to say that didn't boost morale, however they said just come, maybe there's something and they also checked the weather for me and advised which date would be better. Since I have nothing else better, I could only hope for the best that it will work out. There's also a helicopter company from Lake Tekapo that does pretty much the same thing but since it's a helicopter, it has snow landing. However since I was already demoralized, I didn't feel like emailing this helicopter company and also since it's more expensive with shorter duration, I thought maybe this was just one of those things that I have to let go. I was pretty positively sure that I would be so unlucky, that I wouldn't get to fly, and that the trip there wouldn't be great at all. It turned out to be one of the best day that I had in New Zealand.
To get to Lake Tekapo, I decided to use Atomic Shuttle since its departure point was just at the Canterbury Museum which is practically less than 5 minutes walk from YMCA, so no chance for me to get lost. By the way, I have been finding places easy enough, has my directional skill improved or Christchurch and Auckland are pretty easy? Anyway the shuttle is a small van instead of a bus, perhaps because there's not many people. We departed at 07:15 am. Managed to get window seat. Arrived at 10:30 am something and straight away I saw the Air Safari office. The helicopter company was just next door actually, but then I thought since Air Safari had responded to me nicely, I should just go to them. It turned out there were other people booking the flight that day and I could go for the 11 am flight. I basically just managed to go to the toilet before one of the pilots drove me and another guy to the hangar. I think they made a plane which was almost going to take off wait for us. It cost 340 NZD for a 50-minute flight, but I think it didn't fly that long. So pretty fast, I was in the air. The plane was really small, there were seats for 8 people exactly. There's the pilot, then there were 2 french speaking guys, the guy I was with, and a family, mother and father with their young son and toddler daughter. I was seated at the back with the mom who had the daughter in her lap. Well it's a mystery what could grab a little kid's attention, with the view outside, the little girl seemed to be more interested to see me. The flight was really bad for me actually because I had motion sickness and I am not sure why. Was it because it was too rushed for me, getting off a bus ride and straight away I went to fly? Or because the plane was small and I sat at the back? There's also turbulence and that didn't help. This brought back to mind lesson learnt from the trip to Provence and Capri, when the sky is blue without a speck of clouds that means the wind is strong in the area. They say when you are having motion sickness, try to focus on the horizon, but when the horizon is not in sight or when it's not in a straight line, it got really hard :( I was trying so hard not to puke and asked God to help me. Found one candy from Changi Airport in my bag and took that to help me from being sick. Overall I survived it and was happy to get down even though I think we flew less than the 50-minute duration. The view was awesome though and so it's quite a shame that I was feeling sick. As I was sorting through the pictures, I realized how awesome it really was, it's mind blowing, and it's an awesome experience. First we flew over Lake Tekapo with its blue water which comes from the glacial ice.
Then there's snow capped mountains and glacier. The pilot was giving description of each places we passed, but I was not processing any of it because I was focusing on not puking. Yes, it's quite a shame.
I also felt like I experienced a National Geographic or BBC documentary moments when I saw landscapes like below.
I was really happy when we finally landed, maybe the little girl too because towards the end she was not feeling all too good and she kinda kicked me too. Her mom said her ears might have hurt. I wonder if anyone else felt sick or all played it cool like how I tried to be :P Here you can see how small the plane is.
Upon finishing, the pilot drove me and the other guy back to village center. I asked the pilot what fuel they put into the planes because I saw a pump like what you use for cars. He said similar gas but with higher octane or something like that and that it's more expensive than normal gas (obviously). Perhaps this is the kinda gas they illegally use for drag racing as mentioned in Hollywood movies? So basically, to fuel the planes, they also pump gas the way they would a car :D
Back at the village, I still had some hours to spend at the lake. I love the village center because though it's small, it actually has all the necessary things like a supermarket, restaurants, and cafes. I proceeded to the bakery / cafe. Decided to get cream cheese bagel (side note: all the things they had seemed to be really nice). The place was manned by Korean ladies which perhaps are immigrants. One of the lady asked if I wanted it to be toasted and I said yes even though I wasn't planning to eat it right away. They nicely packed it with a little paper plate in the bag. I went to go by the lake and found an empty bench and since the bagel was warm, I decided to eat it. I was still trying to shake off the motion sickness and perhaps it's not a good idea to eat straight away but it was warm! That turned to be my best bagel experience. I did find myself eating really slow though, slower than I usually eat. It was like a beautiful epitome of travelling alone, you sit on a bench alone, near a tree, eating nice food, the weather was great, and seeing a beautiful view in front of you. This is what I saw.
As you can see there's a beautiful blue sky. The weather was really really great. The lake was beautiful and that small little house on the right is the Church of the Good Shepherd. I sat there for awhile, breathing, feeling it's such a beautiful day. As you can see that Church is like across the water on the other side of me, so when I was ready to move, I made my way to it. It was quite a longer walk than I expected. On the way there, a lady walking from the opposite direction with her husband said something like, hey it's you, you're alone ah? I was like, what?!? Then I realized they were in the shuttle with me that morning and turned out they also stayed in YMCA. They're a couple from Malaysia who are retirees though they still look young and they're travelling for around a month to explore Australia and New Zealand. We had quite a chat by what appeared to me as an apple tree. Stupid me didn't feel like picking the red apple I saw. Anyways, they were really chatty and it was nice talking about our trips, sharing a bit of stories and of course since I haven't talked to many people, I became more social than usual :P They were going to spend the night there, which is perhaps an excellent idea because after finding out more about Lake Tekapo, it seems that this is a good place to see the night sky because there will be many stars. I have seen pictures of the Church of the Good Shepherd at night with the many stars and it's beautiful! There's also Mount John Observatory nearby where you can do some serious star gazing.
So anyway, arrived at the church, but there were many people there and at its shore. I think you can go in the church, but it was so seriously small that I didn't feel like going through the crowd to go inside. I went to the shore, saw the brilliant clear water. It wasn't exceptionally cold. In fact I saw some people swimming in the lake. The shore is very rocky though and I always feel like I am the type of person who will just fall and break something. See I have very little confidence in my ability to do things correctly and I always have these thoughts that I'm just gonna slip and fall and do something stupid and hurt myself. I don't know why I keep on feeling this way when I have managed to do many things successfully on my own and I haven't fallen and hurt myself so bad. Of course when things like that happened like when I fell from the stairs and bruised myself bad (I was reminded of that as I wrote these lines), I went, of course this happens to you, you're the unlucky one. Hopefully with me writing this, no bad things will come my way, knock on wood. So anyway, there are many balanced rock sculptures / structures on this shore, some people got really creative. While they're not exceptionally mindblowing, it's still not an easy thing to do, I tried and I couldn't get it to be tall. Mine is like perhaps only 3 - 4 levels of rocks. I guess you really need the patience.
After I had enough, I decided to go back to the other side. Walked back from a different path now and I couldn't even figure out how that happpened, why couldn't I go back the same way I came? Anyway got into the other side of the road and that's where I saw what I believe is a dam that dams this lake (can a dam be a verb too?). That was quite interesting to see. Anyways, the other side of the lake has a bigger shore and less people and I just spent the time exploring it, still as rocky, but it was nice :)
There were not many trees, but the ones which were there have these glorious bright yellow leaves.
There were also some last blooming lupins and I ran my hand through one of them and said something like, "Hello beautiful, thank you for meeting me here".
I do that when I am alone and haven't spoken much, I begin to speak aloud to no one in particular or to things. I even spoke aloud to Jesus in Arthur Pass (that's another story). Other than the grass, a few lupins, there were also berries. I am always intriqued by this. Too bad I couldn't know if they're poisonous or not.
I stayed until around 3 pm, that's when the bus would take me back. Decided to take the InterCity bus this time around because it will arrive back in Christchurch at 7 pm something, not as late as the Atomic Shuttle which will arrive back around 10 pm even though it's stopping right back at the Canterburry museum. Found the meeting point for the bus, but wasn't sure if it's correct until I saw another Asian couple from the shuttle earlier that morning and another guy waiting. The bus was running late, but I felt better because there were these people and I also asked the guy if he's waiting for the same bus which he did. The bus finally arrived and it's the GreatSights bus coming in from Queenstown. The GreatSights bus are buses which is also like a tour because it drops you at these attraction places. In fact, just after they were dropping passengers in Lake Tekapo and picking us up, they made a stop at the Church of the Good Shepherd, which of course for me was redundant. I was barely sitting down and we made a stop, but at least then I could see the statue of the dog. I read about this but totally forgot about it, so it's a good thing that God made sure I didn't miss it.
By that time there's a wedding in the church, so the church was closed. Didn't know it's popular to have wedding there. It's very small so I'm not sure how many guests they can fit in, doesn't seem practical for a big family. Anyway the bus didn't make any more touristy stop, but it did stop for tea break and that's where I met 2 Indonesian couples from Surabaya. I was so happy!!! Always happy meeting Indonesians, nice Indonesians. They were in-laws, maybe 5-10 years younger than my parents or perhaps same age. At first I saw the wives and they were quiet that I thought they were Japanese but when I heard they said something in Indonesian, I straight away came up to them to talk. They were pretty nice. They introduced me to one of the husbands, the other one was somewhere else at the time and the Om (= uncle) was very nice and we chatted a lot. I am glad they are nice. They're pretty awesome to be doing this trip on their own and they're including Australia too. You know in retrospect, I should perhaps have done what they did, taking the GreatSights bus either from Christchurch to Queenstown or the other way around and then make my way to Auckland. I should have researched harder when I only had 2 cities as bases for this trip, when usually I stayed in at least 3 cities. If I had made it to Queenstown, I could have gone to Milford Sound. However, it's not easy planning a trip and this was as best as my brain and heart could muster and also because the budget increased pretty quickly, I was thinking I should be more acceptance with a shorter trip. Anyway, the Om filled me in about their trip, they did a reverse of what I do, starting in Auckland and ending in Christchurch. He talked about the tour they took in Auckland and the one I was going to take too and they had a good time there, so I was feeling happy for them and me :P He even came by my seat in the middle of the trip to talk more and I was impressed that he knows how to google. They're leaving Christchurch in the evening next day, so they're not planning to do much in Christchurch. He said they would most probably just explore Re:START mall which I told him has nothing much. I told him about the Botanic gardens and that it's free and recommended them to go there, not sure if they really did. Anyways, I was so glad to be able to meet them and have good conversation in Indonesian. Then the bus apparently could drop us in our hotels, that's so awesome because I was kinda worried if I could navigate myself from the station to YMCA in the dark. I was the second one to be dropped and I loved how they're sounding like parents when we said our farewells. I really had a great day, so score score score and high five all around. I thank God really, it was truly one the best days I had in New Zealand and my days there actually had been pretty great :) For pictures from this trip, you can go here
. The pictures from the flight were really great that I didn't even enhance their colors.
:) eKa @ 10:07:00 PM •