Mountains and Burgers

My nose feels cold as I wake up, and I am not looking forward to leave my warm and cosy sleeping bag. Last night I have pitched my tent at the frozen banks of Lake Pukaki at the foot of the Southern Alps. A thin layer of dew covers the tent and as I open the zipper the crisp morning air rushes in. Welcome to New Zealand’s South Island!

Het Pukaki meer wordt gevoed met smeltwater van de gletsjers. Het meer dankt zijn briljant blauwe kleur aan het "keileem", een sediment dat ontstaat door erosie van de gletsjer. Dit fijne poeder vermengt met het water en breekt het zonlicht waardoor het in onze ogen een melkachtig turquoise verschijning krijgt. Mooie blauwe meren dus ;)

The glacial feed to the lakes gives them a distinctive blue colour, created by glacial flour, the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers.

Reluctantly I leave the warmth of my tent, ‘nature calls’. From the tent next to me I hear nothing but light snoring. Dan and Fabian, my two new travel companions, whom I met through couchsurfing, are clearly still recovering from last night. It was a real “old fashion” campfire party including marshmallows, beers and songs by Anne with her Ukulele. Kumbaya!

Met mijn reisgenootjes hoog op het plateau met uitzicht over de meren.

On the plateau overlooking the lakes

Today we head west towards Mount Cook. Through Facebook I learned that an old roommate of mine is currently working there in one of the largest hotels in the region. So the next couple of days we are camping in style at the Hermitage Hotel  From my bedroom window I have an excellent view of Mount Cook, with 3724 meters the highest mountain in New Zealand. Many brave souls have risked their lives in an attempt to climb the summit. The Irish and the Swiss tried, but in the end it was the kiwis that conquered the mountain.

Onderweg naar Mount Cook. Ziet er wel onheilspellend uit...

The road on the way to Mount Cook

Luckily you do not have to be a seasoned mountaineer to enjoy yourself here. There a plenty of one day walks around the area, like the ‘Hooker Valley Track” that runs through the valley and a number of suspension bridges to the Hooker Glacier. I am not sure where the name comes from but I can tell you that this is not a suitable track for prostitutes with all the loose gravel and the icy wind blowing from the glacier.

Uitzicht op de gletsjer

On the Hooker Trail

Another way to explore this rugged terrain is per 4 WD. But what is even better than 4WD? Indeed, 8WD! There are spots left on the ARGO tour so we can join in for free. For those of you who have never seen one, an ARGO is an amphibious vehicle and did I mention it has 8 weals? For the next couple of hours we are bouncing up the mountain at a 45 degree angle over loose rocks and ice. Two hours later we are dropped of at the doorstep of our hotel, covered in dust but at least something I can check of the list 😉

In de ARGO

The ARGO

And if for some reason this is not enough action I will definitely not be disappointed at my next destination: Queenstown, known as the ‘Adrenaline Capital’ of New Zealand.
“A small Austrian ski village” is the first thing that springs to mind when trying to describe Queenstown with it’s cute cobble stone streets lined with outdoor stores, cosy café’s and chocolatiers. You can find tour operators on every street corner, all offering you the lowest price for your next near-death-experience. I decide to hold on to my money for now; after South-Africa I already have the highest bungy jump in the pocket. But as I am passing all these diners the smells are making me quite hungry.

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One café seems exceptionally popular as is reflected by the huge queue that runs all the way down to the Kathmandu Store around the corner. ‘Fergburger’ is Queenstown national pride, according to CNN this might well be the best hamburger in the world! I recon it must be good if people are willing to stand in line for almost an hour to sink their teeth into one off these iconic meat-filled buns. Or is it simply a case of herding behaviour?
Burger-lovers get to choose from over 20 different burgers, ranging from the classic ‘Ferg Burger ‘to the vegetarian ‘Bun Laden’ (filled with falafel). Overwhelmed by the number of options I decide to go for the ‘save’ classic Ferg Burger: that’s the one that made them famous so I can’t go wrong with that I guess. And indeed it tastes damn good, or maybe it’s because I waited for a long time and I am suffering from the ‘cracker effect’ (for those of you who are wondering: check out Eddie Murphy’s video). Also I have to admit that I don’t really have anything to compare it to besides, sadly enough, McDonalds or Burger King (or Hungry Jacks here).
So far, this is the best burger in the world for me. But I would probably have to travel and sample some more before I can give my final verdict.

 

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