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Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

Atlanta, GA, USA
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Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

Hi all! My two friends and I (around 30 yrs old) will be spending some time in NZ in October and we're trying to figure out the first part of our trip. The biggest chunk will be based in Nelson, with quite a few day trips from there (we're there for a conference so most mornings will be taken up but then we're free).

We have a few days beforehand and after looking at all the areas in the South Island (that are feasible while still getting us to Nelson on time), we are the most drawn to:

* Lake Tekapo (see springs, lake, stars on our own, walk path but nothing major & no tours)

* Mount Cook/Hooker Valley Trail for a walk, again nothing major just stuff on our own

* Lake Tasman (for the glacier lake tour; http://www.glacierexplorers.com/glacier/glacier-trip/)

What I could really use help with is figuring out 1) if we can see all that in the time we have, 2) what route would make the most sense, and 3) rough times, details, etc. for doing it (where we should base ourselves overnight, etc.).

We'll be coming from Chch and will have a rental car. We have basically two and a half days to play with before needing to be in Nelson in the evening of that third day (so a half day Monday, all day Tuesday and Wednesday). As far as I can tell, there's no way to get up to Nelson from there that doesn't involve several hours of driving, and if that's true then we're fine with that taking up a lot of a day (and we'll need the rental car in Nelson, so doesn't really make sense to go back to Chch and fly). This isn't going to be a leisurely, take-your-time leg of the trip since we have so little time, so we'll be pushing ourselves a little more.

Any advice you can offer would be super helpful, I'm having a little trouble working out the best route & options. Thanks so much!

New Zealand
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11. Re: Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

I lived in the US for 20 years. I often had marathon drives and didn't hesitate to drive 10 hours in a day on easy cruising freeways. However your roads are far different from what you will encounter in NZ. In the South Island many of the roads are narrow, steep and very twisty, plus there are one lane bridges. The driver needs to be well rested and fully alert.

Your John Kerry was here a while back and he took a road trip - he loved NZ and wants to return. His one comment -- our roads are *too small*

Atlanta, GA, USA
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12. Re: Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

That all makes sense, thanks for the context! It sounds similar in some ways to the Ireland week-long road trip we did, we stayed pretty off the beaten path and a lot of the roads weren't even wide enough for two cars and were super winding. So it sounds like we should definitely look into driving back to Chch Wednesday and flying to Nelson then, I'll talk to my travel partners about that.

Do you guys know of any hot air ballooning experiences in the Tekapo/Mt Cook area? I've found them in Canterbury (outside Chch a little) and in Auckland, but have been looking for ones in the Nelson area. Somewhere around Tekapo would be perfect if we were basing ourselves there for a few days and could use the Wednesday morning for that, then get back to Chch to fly to Nelson. When I was checking on the House of Travel site last night it looked like they had several evening flights, including a 6:55pm that would get us into Nelson a little before 8pm (which is about what we were hoping).

Thanks again so much for the advice!

California
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13. Re: Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

Sorry, I don't know of any hot air ballooning experiences other than the one you have already found.

I'm glad you are taking the advice given to heart and sorry I came across so harshly in my previous post.

Atlanta, GA, USA
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14. Re: Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

No, deSchenke, not harsh at all...I get that everyone has strong opinions about what's safe and what's not, and I'm definitely taking that into consideration, that's always been the case on the TA forums. Haven't made any decisions just yet. For me it's finding the balance, and taking the "different strokes for different folks" factor into account as well. When we went to Ireland everyone told us our driving itinerary was way too ambitious, that we'd feel rushed & be exhausted, but my parents thought it was perfect & we didn't feel rushed at all. Everyone prefers to vacation/travel differently. I'll say that for me, second-day jet lag is much worse than when I arrive--once I've slept one night I'm much more tired/groggy. But we're going to look at the different scenarios and figure out what we feel the most comfortable with. It helps that we have 3 experienced drivers as well, as we can rotate out and stay fresh. But I definitely agree that trying to do the Mt. Cook to Nelson drive in one day is biting off too much, so we'll look at flying.

For the Hooker Valley Trail walk, do any of you have recommendations for morning, afternoon, or evening? I've read some recommendations that you time it to where it's near sunset when you get to the one-way end point to head back, but didn't know if you have other experiences. They do the Lake Tasman tours throughout the day, so we can pick which order and what times we do that and Hooker Valley.

If we got an early start at Lake Tasman (the 8a or 9:30a tour, for instance), that's 3 hours or so, then went over and did the Hooker Valley trail walk (3-4 hrs?), would it be too much to try and get back toward Canterbury that evening and staying somewhere around where they do the hot air balloon rides (which would be around sunrise the next morning)? The ones I've seen have been around Hororata I think? That'd be what, a 4 hr drive? Is that too much to cram into one day? Still trying to move different puzzle pieces around to see how they can fit and what makes the most sense, just to make sure I've explored all the options.

Thanks!

Ballarat, Australia
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15. Re: Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

At Mt Cook you do whatever the weather lets you do - the mountains are clagged in half the time and conditions change fast. Just remember it still gets dark quite quickly in October, so allow plenty of time to get back from the Hooker Valley. You:d want to be setting out about 2pm.

If you try to drive back to the plains that evening, you will definitely be driving in the dark.

New Zealand
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16. Re: Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

For flights look at grabaseat http://grabaseat.co.nz/

Christchurch, New...
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17. Re: Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

If you try to fit in the hot air ballooning on Wed AM, you are committing yourselves to being back in Chch by nightfall on Tuesday so less than a day & a half for the trip to Lake Tekapo/ Mt Cook. We had already established that this was going to be a rush in 2.5 days. Something has to be skipped.

How important is it for you to be at your conference on Thursday AM? Could you do the hot air ballooning on Thursday & fly to NSN as soon as it is over?

Atlanta, GA, USA
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18. Re: Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

Makes sense, I figured it was worth asking the question at least. We definitely have to be at the conference Wednesday night, as Thursday is a holy day for us. I"m also looking into hot air ballooning on the tail end of our trip, in the North Island somewhere. Wondering if it's as cool up there as the views in the South Island.

I think having the whole of Tuesday (and Wednesday morning, if needed) to be flexible depending on weather makes sense, so just need to start looking into accommodations in the Tekapo area. Thanks so much!

19. Re: Time/itinerary for Lake Tekapo/Mt Cook/Lake Tasman

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