On a five-week hiking and photography odyssey through New Zealand in 2009, I had the good fortune to book a bus trip from Christchurch to Queenstown, where I traversed the glorious Mackenzie Basin of the South Island. I remember being enraptured at the astounding natural beauty of this country of 4.4 million people, of which only 1 million inhabit the South Island. I remember gazing out the left side of the bus, and seeing rolling, green pastureland dotted with sheep, while on the right, I was in awe at the majesty of the Southern Alps, with Mt. Cook, dominating the horizon at 12,218 feet. Edmund Hillary, the first climber to scale Mt. Everest, practiced on Mt. Cook before his historic ascent in 1953.
A key feature of this region are the iridescent, turquoise-colored glacial lakes, commonly referred to as the Southern Lakes, which include Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapo, Lake Wanaka and and Lake Wakatipu, among others. Peter Jackson used this area three times as the backdrop for scenes from his Lord of the Rings and Hobbit trilogies, with Lake Pukaki being used as the surrounding area for Lake Town in “The Hobbit, the Desolation of Smaug”.
The surreal light-blue color of these lakes results from the glacial silt runoff that carries finely ground rock particles called glacial flour. The bus driver was kind enough to stop at a few of these glimmering blue jewels, but this shot was actually captured from the window with my Canon Rebel XT and a 17mm-55mm lens, as we meandered through this magical picture postcard landscape.