Monday, December 15, 2014

Cycling New Zealand 2014 Day 3 : Tekapo Chopper & Bike Rides

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Cycling New Zealand Day 3: Tekapo Chopper & Bike Rides
Tekapo, New Zealand : 17th November 2014
Small Group Ride - Chopper & Bike Rides At Tekapo
Woooo..... Hooooo! Today we are going for a chopper ride!
But it's not just going to be a mundane ride on a chopper bicycle. No, we are going for something more exciting, we are going for a helicopter ride up to the Southern Alps.


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Today we are having a couple of firsts. Our first cooking while in New Zealand, and a first real cycling ride around a lake with a scenic view of the famed snow-capped mountains.
Cooking Chinese dishes in Westerns countries is not easy, most Western kitchens lack one important utensil - a wok! Nevertheless we made do and turned out respectable dishes, they were not that fantastically tasty but at least they were edible *grins*.


The previous evening we had arrived late and it was dark; eager to see the place during daytime, right after breakfast we drove down to Lake Tekapo with our bicycles in tow. The weather was a bit moody too, with dark rain clouds dampening what would otherwise be a perfect day.


Nevertheless, it was still a good day to ride; a bit chilly but still nice.
Oops! Did I forget my bicycle? No, the three of us will not be cycling; not just yet.
We dropped Siew Yung at the lakeside, and in a flash she was off heading off into the wilderness on the cycling trails. At the top right hand corner of this photo is the Mt. John Observatory, the one where we will be viewing the skies from tonight.
Bye, Siew Yung we will be seeing you later. With that the three of us drove off to the Tekapo Helicopter's office in town.


Yes, we will be taking a chopper ride while Siew Yung was having her biking adventure!
This will be another first for me, I have never rode on a helicopter before - hopefully I don't crap in my pants!
But first, a safety briefing. I would advised those taking helicopter rides to listen closely to what the pilot have to say during these; one would not want to be caught on the wrong side of the helicopter's swirling blades.
We had wanted to take a flight and land on the Franz Josef Glazier; but the weather at the west coast was a bummer. Winds were too strong for helicopters to fly safely there. So we had to be contented to fly up to the mountains only for the Mount Cook tour.


From their office we took a short drive over to the Mackenzie Heliport, this is where the helicopters will take off.
Inside the helicopter, my heart beat in rhythm to the helicopter's putting engine. Although smiling, I kept my fingers crossed and hoped everything will be alright.
The helicopter seats four passengers and the pilot is quiet fair; on the flight out two passengers will sit upfront with him and the other two at the back. During the flight back, we swapped positions - everyone will get a chance for that best view from the cockpit.


As we flew on the enrapturing view of the mountains ...


... and the serene valleys with their lakes abated my fears.
Hey! I could get use to this!


The putt-putt sound of the helicopter seems to be a distant away as I look all round to take in the fantastic view. This is the Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.


On a nearby flat small, snowy plateau, I espied a helicopter sitting on the snow on the Liebig Dome. 
The pilot informed through our headphones that we will be landing there too.
Wow! ... this get's better and better; we are going to have some fun frolicking in the snow! Another first for a tropical bumpkin like me, who had not touched snow before.


Literally having that "I Am On Top Of The World" feeling.


... and a bit of happy dancing.


The return flight was via a different route; we flew over the large valleys in between the mountains. Green farmland dot the scenery; a comforting change from the cold, blue mountain scene.
As we landed, I thought to myself, "Well, taking a helicopter is not so bad after all". I did not have to kiss terra firma.
(Click here to view a YouTube video of part of our helicopter ride).


Back in town, we popped into the Earth & Sky office to confirm our booking for our visit to the Mt. John Observatory. The skies seems moody & cloudy but in our hearts we quietly prayed that it will improve; we did not want to miss the greatest show of the heavens on earth. *Fingers crossed, fingers crossed*

TIME TO RIDE!!!!
After all, this is what we came to New Zealand for, to cycle!
From the town we rode down to the Lake Tekapo lakeside.


My bike "Goofy" treading the crystal clear waters of Lake Tekapo.
If I am having fun here, so should Goofy!


At a bridge over looking the nearby lake; the river water is blueish!
Yeah! The sun is coming our a bit. *fingers crossed* *fingers crossed".


When in Lake Tekapo, the Church of The Good Shepherd should not be missed.
This quaint little stonework church built in 1935 was the first church to be built in the Mackenzie Basin. This small Anglican church which can hold a congregation of at most fifty is opened daily from 9am to 5pm (weather permitting). Services are held on the 2nd and 4th Sundays of each month at 11:30am.
At night the grounds of the church, which is not lighted and out of the town's glare, is also a good place to view the starry heavens. Very appropriate isn't it, at a place of God to view the heavens.


With all the excitement we forgot about our stomachs which were growling but luckily we were still in town and popped into the Doughboy Bakery for lunch of some pies and coffee.
Energy boosted up, we were ready for more serious cycling and rode out of town, along the lakeside trail. This trail was made of lightly compacted gravel. Yes, this will be a good practice for our later cycling along the Otago Central Rail Trail which is suppose to be of similar construction.


Half way out, we caught sight of Siew Yung.
She had rode out "lost" - meaning riding without any particular destination in mind, letting the road lead her to wherever it goes. On her return, she caught out with some horse riders who was doing the Mackenzie Alpine Horse Trekking.

Seriously, is she going to follow those horses on her own iron-horse?
We called out to her, and she rode to join us, leaving those horses to proceed along.


3:30pm - We headed back for "home", this time cycling along concrete-paved tracks running next to the main road as we wanted to be back for a quick nap to rest ourselves in preparation of tonight's star-gazing.


With that short rest, we were up and preparing dinner. A simple one of mixed vegetable curry (cooked with the curry paste we brought over), stir-fried broccoli with thin slices of pork belly, white rice, and...


... and these lovely red strawberries. They were HUGE but still very sweet.


Mt. John Observatory
(
Capture of video by Maki Yanagimachi)
9:50pm - Promptly we are at the Earth & Sky office, presenting ourselves for the ride up to the Mt. John Observatory to view the stars.
Haiz! Jumping Jupiter! (I hope that's an appropriate exclamation as it allude to a planet). We were informed that the sky is only 10% clear and is not at it's best for viewing.
Well, the weather was a bummer - no helicopter ride to the Franz Josef Glacier and now now starry skies. Dang!


Starry sky view.
(Capture of video by Maki Yanagimachi)
To make up for missing the show, I could only view the video presentation on a TV screen at their office. Man..... we did miss a lot!
For a good video presentation, click here to view the one by Fraser Gunn,

We drove off looking for a pub to drink and "drown our sorrows", sadly that did not work out too as places here close by 9:00pm there..... Haiz!
It's back to sleep then, dream about the stars and hope that tomorrow will be a better day.

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