Photography and words by Robbie Hunter. Photos of Robbie by Jim Huang.
From Christchurch down to the dirty south and back up around the West Coast. One ridiculously uncomfortable van, four friends, many new ones, over three thousand kilometers and lots of coffee, porridge and beer. We set out to capture the insane beauty of New Zealand’s South Island in the middle of winter.
We set off after a chill first two days of meeting people and alpacas in Christchurch to our first destination - Lake Pukaki. We set up for the night on a small hill on the lakeside. I can’t say I was completely prepared for how cold it was, how morning coffee turned ice cold before it touched your lips.
Next stop was a ‘quick walk’ down Hooker Valley Track (4 hours later, thanks Jim) on the ice trail compacted by the mornings visitors, just enough for my worn out docs to have no grip. Come to think of it, watching a 6’3” camera strapped guy fall down multiple sets of stairs would have been great, if it wasn’t me.
Only four days in and we had already outgrown our tiny van and it’s somewhat ridiculous beds, just in time to meet up with Matt and his crew at High Country Cabin in Ben Ohau.
Icy roads in the dark of night led us to Milford Sound. Our lack of research had led me to believe that Milford was just another town, turns out it is anything but. Huge mountainous cliff faces towered over us, smothered in snow and streams. The next day we spent stopping every few minutes to get soaked, take photos and be super glamourous.
Ashley and I left the boys in Queenstown and took off back to Mount Cook to jump on a flight with our friends from Inflite Charters. Our flight up to Tasman Glacier was spent half hanging out of the window, fighting the cold and wind to get some of the most adrenaline filled photos I have ever taken. We were left on the glacier, a surreal and isolating experience, being alone on the 2000ft ice (they came back though, don’t worry).
After arriving safely back down to earth and into Queenstown, we found Zoe and accidentally shot a watch commercial and some fake couple photos (because reasons).
And drank more beer.
The road to Cardrona might have been my favourite road, if we had had a Porsche. Instead it was a slow climb in the van to the ski field where I somehow convinced Ashley to put on a white dress and stand in the snow.
Side note: Overcast days in the snow make for beautiful light.
With civilisation now somewhat of a strange concept, we found ourselves deep in the West Coast closed in by more bush, more rain and more awesome (though off limits) glaciers.
The last leg of our journey was through Arthurs Pass, which on a regular day is probably an enjoyable drive. Torrential rain, howling winds and an overused van proved to be an experience a little closer to death than I would normally get on a Saturday.
A hot Thai meal and a movie welcomed us back into civilisation, before we headed to the airport and back home to catch up on 16 nights of sleep.
Prints from this trip and our travel essentials are available here.
A massive thanks to Ashley, Jim, Lars and all of the others for the company and High Country Cabin, Inflite NZ, Mt Cook Skiplanes & Helis, Supreme Coffee and Hunter Lab for your support along the way!