Penny’s epic adventure in Mount Aspiring NP on New Zealand’s South Island
Destination Expert Penny Buckley goes on an epic adventure to the spectacular Mount Aspiring National Park on South Island, New Zealand
One of my favourite days in New Zealand was exploring the Siberia Valley in the Southern Alps of the mountainous South Island. This remote place is accessed only by helicopter and is one of the country’s most naturally beautiful areas. With majestic snowy peaks, glaciers, forests and crystal-clear rivers, it is absent of human impact and completely unspoilt. We would strongly recommend this incredible experience to all clients who are visiting the Queenstown area.
Our adventure began at a helipad, a couple of hours’ drive out of Queenstown, where we met with our welcoming pilot, Harvey, to board our private helicopter. The next 50 or so minutes were utterly surreal, trying to soak in the surroundings, take photographs – but not too many – and listen to our pilot telling us about the geography beneath us.
The flight took us over Mount Aspiring National Park. At one point, we saw the most magnificent stag standing proud among the autumnal, golden bush, so Harvey swooped down towards it to give us a closer look. Taking in the aerial views of the staggering glacial lakes as we flew, we could already see the damaging effects of climate change with the diminishing glaciers.
At Mount Aspiring, we touched down on the snow-capped peak and were able to explore the glacier on foot and admire the awe-inspiring stillness of the mountains around us. From there, it was only a few minutes’ flight to the far-flung Siberia Valley, where we bid farewell to our pilot and began a three-hour hike along a glorious, well-marked track through the valley. What an experience it was to have this breathtaking place all to ourselves!
Our private jetboat driver was waiting for us at the end of the trek. Having no idea what jetboating was before this, I was in for quite a surprise. We set off at a lightning pace along the river through this stunning wilderness, careering around corners and skimming across the shallow water. As with so many adrenaline-pumping sports in this country – bungee jumping, skydiving, you name it the Kiwis invented it – jet boating is part of their DNA and quintessentially ‘New Zealand’.
After an exhilarating ride, we stopped at a quiet spot for a delicious barbecue, where most of our conversation centred around our pilot and his captivating stories of hunting and flying in this wild and rugged landscape. It was brilliant to hear about the maverick antics of these veteran pilots before healthy and safety became commonplace!