Ballooning in Methven
Aoraki Balloon Safaris. On a clear morning you might catch a glimpse of a rainbow-striped balloon floating high above Methven—chances are it's Aoraki Balloon Safaris. From their balloons, you get an incredible view of the patchwork pattern of farm paddocks, the braided systems of the Rakaia and Ashburton rivers, and a full 300-km (190-mi) panorama of the Canterbury Plains and Aoraki/Mt. Cook, the "Cloud Piercer". On landing, you'll be served a buffet breakfast. Flights start at daybreak, and you'll be pitching in to help with the launch. The actual time in the air is about one hour, but the whole experience takes at least four hours, starting at daybreak. Rates for Premier flights include breakfast in a meadow after landing.) 121 Main St., Methven, 7730. 03/302–8172; 0800/256–837 (NZ only). firstname.lastname@example.org. www.nzballooning.com. From $NZ385 per person.
Discovery Jet. Zoom along the glacier-fed Rakaia River with Discovery Jet as you journey through the deep canyon and braided courses of the river. The Rakaia's jewel-like aqua water contrasts wonderfully with the white limestone cliffs and views of Mt Hutt ski field. Fishing and scenic tours are options or catch a ride up to the Rakaia Gorge Walkway. Tours vary from 15 to 45 minutes and are suitable for all ages. 0800/538–2628 NZ only; 021/538–386. www.discoveryjet.co.nz. From $40 for 15 mins.
Mt. Somers Track. One of New Zealand's top 10 walkways, the Mt. Somers Track is a great way to get a taste of the subalpine New Zealand bush. Start at the Mt. Somers–Woolshed Creek end and hike downhill to the Staveley end and Sharplin Falls. The 16-km (10-mi) walk will take one to two days, and there are two huts to stay in along the way—or do it in reverse. Call the Staveley Village Store before you start your trip (03/303–0859) for information on transport to the end of the trail; there are a number of small guiding companies. www.doc.govt.nz.
Rakaia Gorge Walkway. Leaving from just below the Rakaia River Gorge bridge, the Rakaia Gorge Walkway provides upstream access to the northern bank of the river and offers easy walking. You can also take a jet boat up river and walk back—just name your distance. St. Hwy. 72, Methven. www.methveninfo.co.nz.
Mt Hutt Ski Area. Methven is the gateway to a number of ski slopes (Kiwis say ski fields). Thanks to its altitude, (6,780 feet) and snowmaking machines, Mt. Hutt's access begins in early June. Its wide basin and a vertical drop of 655 meters (2,148 feet) ensure a 2-km (1-mi) run, with some of the best powder in Australasia. From the chairlifts you'll have terrific views of the mountains and the Canterbury Plains below. Shuttles to the slopes run from Methven and Christchurch, often as part of a package offer including lift fees and equipment rental. You can catch a ski-bus from Methven, or drive yourself but the road's not paved and has a number of hairpin turns. Rental equipment is available, and the area is family- and beginner-friendly. There's a ski school and crèche (kids under ten ski for free). Up-to-date ski conditions are available by phone or on the website. 03/302–8811. www.nzski.com. Lift tickets from $NZ93.
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