From Here to the Other Down Under

Fishing the Nelson Lakes and Mount Cook National Park

Aug 10, 2001
Outside Magazine

Fishing the Nelson Lakes
Alaska for salmon, New Zealand's Westland for brown trout (Salmo trutta). From Christchurch it's about a three-hour drive to Lake Brunner and Lake Rotoroa (in the Nelson Lakes region), where five-pound trout are stalked and captured (to be photographed and released if they're lucky, eaten if not). Fishing is much less expensive here than in North America and the surroundings are just as beautiful—lakes reflecting the high mountains and remote, clear streams. The almost up-market Lake Brunner Lodge at Mitchells on the shores of Lake Brunner (3-738-0163), near where the first browns were released at the turn of the century, operates from October through April and has an all-inclusive six-night guided package for $1,800-$2,135 (the head guide is the renowned Ray Grubb). Lake Rotoroa Lodge (3-523-9121), far more luxurious with gourmet meals, has an all-inclusive three-day, four-night package for $1,500. (Outside of these packages, a guide for a day for two people costs about $375.) Another competent guide is Brent Beadle, based at the more budget-conscious Moana Hotel (3-738-0388) on Lake Brunner. He uses a drift boat down the Arnold River and can arrange helicopter trips to the top of the Grey and Rough rivers (where the really big ones lurk)—a full day's guiding (not including the helicopter) costs about $300.

Mount Cook National Park
When you take your first look at the Southern Alps you'll understand why Sir Edmund Hillary, a Kiwi, was so inspired. A half day's bus ride north of Wanaka is Mount Cook Village, at the base of one of the most attractive pieces of rock and ice you're likely to ever gaze upon—Mount Cook, a cloud-piercer of 12,316 feet and New Zealand's highest peak. The 434-square-mile national park it sits in is synonymous with New Zealand mountaineering, and over the years has been a magnet for a hoary bunch of locals and foreigners (although the gridlock of tourist buses at The Hermitage Hotel will have you temporarily believing otherwise).
The 6,986-foot Ball Pass crossing is one way to get up there without any mountaineering experience, allowing you views of Cook that most tourists only see through the windows of a light aircraft. The first day is a tough six-hour, 2,788-foot climb out of the glaciated Tasman Valley to the private Caroline Hut, a comfortable aerie that looks straight across to Cook's dramatic Caroline Face. Climb a nearby peak the next day and rest up for Day 3, a demanding nine-hour trek across the pass and down through tricky gorges and bluffs into the East Hooker Valley. If necessary you'll use crampons and an ice ax and the guide will belay you. Alpine Recreation (3-680-6736) offers this three-day hike for $463. The National Park Visitor Center (3-435-1818; fax 435-1895) in Mount Cook Village can provide advice on weather and other hiking choices.

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