It all started from a wedding photography project in Auckland that took me to explore the "bottom of the world", an experience that seems difficult to forget because we do the entire journey by driving RV/motor home, which is not common in my country (Indonesia). Departing with Malaysia Airlines via Kuala Lumpur, I landed in Auckland after 10 hours of travel. Upon arriving in Auckland, I and Verby (my partner/co-worker) took a few days to go around town, preparing for the shooting, and of course completing our work.
Once all the works are done, it's time the real adventure starts. We flew to Christchurch on a 1 hour and 30 minutes journey, upon arrival, we headed straight to Mighty Campers office by shuttle bus (included). After completing the paperwork I sat behind the wheel and immediately went shopping needs for the next few days. We also returned to Christchurch Airport in the evening to pick up my brother and my parents.
From the airport we rushed to 219 On Johns Motel & Holiday Park for an overnight stay. Inexperienced, we did not know that the reception at the camping ground did not open up to the night like at the hotel, and we had to barge in to the camping spot get some sleep after, and made payment in the morning. Of course, after an unfriendly knocks from the owner.
The second day we left Christchurch to Lake Tekapo, after driving for two and a half an hour, we stopped to check in at Musterer's High Country Accommodation (I learn something from previous experience) then continue the journey to Lake Tekapo. The trip was scenic and 30 minutes of driving passed by just like that. Arriving at Lake Tekapo we parked right in front of Church of The Good Shepherd and directly setting tripod to take some photos at sunset.
We did not go straight to campsite after sunset, since every photographer there were waiting the sun to completely set to see one of Lake Tekapo's main attraction, the milky way! Even according to some photographers who I met there, aurora or southern light also can be seen if you are lucky enough.
I didn't even bother to turn on my tracking app for the milky way, since there are dozens of photographers who have been waiting and directing the camera to the point where the milky way is, so I also directed my camera into the same exact direction. After waiting the sun to finally set and the milky way was more clearly visible, then I took this iconic shot of the Church.
Because we see tourists still keep coming to stargazing, so after I took my last picture we decided to cook and ate our dinner at the parking lot before returning to the camping ground for overnight stay.
Day Three, we left in the morning to Pukaki, still with a scenic hilly ride that spoiled our eyes. After taking about an hour's drive, we finally reached the edge of Lake Pukaki to take a break and buy salmon for lunch. We just did a quick stop at Lake Pukaki because our finish line is Mt. Cook, which was has been seen since up on the edge of Lake Pukaki. We rushed to continue driving immediately after buying salmon.
The journey was getting very beautiful as we turned onto State Highway 80 to Mt. Cook. After seeing tons of picture in brochures and travel advertisements, I finally saw the real thing, a winding roads with lakes on the right towards a huge snowy mountain. I also lowered the speed up to 80 km/h as if I did not want to hurry up, in this highway I also experience the "real New Zealand" like crossing sheeps, giving way to the opposite vehicle on the one lane bridge, and I also saw small planes that takes tourists to see Mt. Cook from the air landing and taking off from the right side of the road.
After passing State Highway 80 we arrived at White Horse Hill Campground, we went to the reception to check in.
Since White Horse Hill Campground is managed by the Department of Conservation, we have to do the self check in by filling out forms, putting money according the number of people, and putting up the tag in our RVs as the proof of payment.
After getting the right camping spot, we parked and immediately cooked the salmon that had been purchased for lunch.
We did not have much time to relax after lunch, because our main aim of the afternoon was trekking, or called "tramping" by New Zealanders. The route we that we planned to took was the Hooker Valley Track, a 5-kilometer track to Hooker Glacier Lake that passed 3 suspension bridges and several creek. We started the journey around 3 pm. As written in the review, the terrain is not too difficult, the hilly streets we encountered are not too steep and there are no meaningful obstacles along the way.Our first stop is Mueller Lake Viewing Point, from which we can see Mt. Sefton, Mueller Lake, and the first suspension bridge that forms a very beautiful composition. But looking at the direction of the light, it seems the best light to photograph is in the morning at sunrise. So I didn't not stop there for a long time, just looking around to find the best place to put tripod tomorrow morning when the sun rises. After that we continue the journey.
The journey after Mueller Lake became more interesting when Mt. Cook is getting more and more visible. The mood was quiet, only my own footsteps and some of the trekkers was heard at that moment. The wild birds are not so much, but occasionally cute bunny was seen jumping between the bushes.
After walking about 2 hours, we finally reached our destination, the Hooker Glacier Lake. The sun was began to dim and the sunlight that fell right on the top of the Mt. Cook was getting smaller and the color has become more and more yellow. That was the obvious sign for me to prepare my tripod and camera. The atmosphere at Hooker Lake was very tranquil, although there were quite a lot of tourists there, but we could hear the roar of glaciers crumbling from Mt. Cook.
After waiting for about 30 minutes, the time finally came to take some pictures. The peak of Mt. Cook has been illuminated by golden sunlight, and I took some pictures, complete with ice as foreground. It's really close with what's in my vision, what a perfect day.
I was planning to stay longer on the lake to photograph the milky way at night. But after seeing the projection milky way through the app, it turns out its position is too far to the left. So I decided to come back soon after sunset. I need enough sleep to get up early and walk again towards Mueller Viewpoint to shoot sunrise.
Even though the sun has already set, I had nearly an hour's walking back without a flashlight. Since Mt Cook National Park is a pretty remote place, there is no artificial light source so my eyes can open the diaphragm wide and make it more sensitive in the dark. No wonder this location is designated as one of the International Dark Sky Reserves by the International Dark-Sky Association.
Then I remembered that the milky way that is in the west, so I decided to stop by Viewpoint because if my estimation is right, then the milky way will be seen right above Mt. Sefton. And my guess was right, it can be seen even with the naked eye. And I immediately executed my bonus shot in that night.
Soon after that I rushed to back the campground since the night turned so cold. We had our dinner then go to bed early.
As Planned, by walking through the cold morning air, we went straight up to the Viewpoint and put my tripod in a place that has been marked from the last day. As expected, the sunlight fell right at the summit of the snowy Mt. Sefton creates a warm-colored eye-popping reflection. I immediately start photographing the sunrise before the light changed.
I spent a few minutes sitting and taking small walks just to enjoy the scenery before I went back to the campground for breakfast, filled the water, then went on to the next destination to Wanaka. Which the the experience about that next journey to the final destination of Milford Sound will be written on the my next blog post. See you later!