NewZealand Day 24 – Lake Tekapo to Akaroa

Today dawned crisp and clear without a cloud in the sky. We watched as the full moon set behind the peaks. We were on the road early and had a good run to Akaroa. The high country plains gave way to busy highways, trees and agriculture. We made only one stop along the way; to take a photo of the big salmon at Salmon World in Rakaia (they call themselves the Salmon Capital of New Zealand).

The drive into Akaroa is up some more of the steep and windy, but pretty, road that we’ve become used to in New Zealand. Thankfully not a dirt road! Akaroa was originally settled by the French and still has a big French influence. It’s a small town at the end of a long harbour in an area that was formed by volcanic eruptions – the Banks Peninsula. It’s a couple of hours drive from Christchurch and a much quieter option for our last couple of nights.

We’re staying in a cottage on a bush property about a kilometre out of the township. We can see the beautiful harbour from our deck (and from inside) and there is constant birdsong. The majority of birds that we’re seeing are New Zealand Bellbirds and they come quite close to feed in the Flax flowers. Unfortunately the highway is also quite close so that’s a bit of a drawback. The Bellbirds have a lovely call, though, so it’s not so bad. We’ve also seen and heard quail, not an uncommon sight on our journey.

We’ve walked up and down and around the shopping centre, checking out all of the tourist traps and cafés and we’ve booked onto a harbour cruise tomorrow morning. There are roses in full flower in almost every yard – so beautiful.

It’s a lovely evening to be sitting outside listening to the birdsong and taking photos.

Early Morning Light over Lake Tekapo

Early Morning Light over Lake Tekapo

Full Moon Setting Over the Peaks

Full Moon Setting Over the Peaks

Big Salmon at Rakaia

Big Salmon at Rakaia

View to Akaroa from the Road in

View to Akaroa from the Road in

View of Akaroa Harbour from our Cottage

View of Akaroa Harbour from our Cottage

Bellbird Feeding on Flax Flowers

Bellbird Feeding on Flax Flowers

Bellbird with a coating of Pollen after Feeding on Flax Flowers

Bellbird with a coating of Pollen after Feeding on Flax Flowers

An Akaroa Street

An Akaroa Street

Akaroa Lighthouse

Akaroa Lighthouse

Roses and French Flag

Roses and French Flag

Roses

Roses

Akaroa

Akaroa

New Zealand Day 23 – Lake Tekapo

Today we had a fairly quiet day. It started off very cloudy and the cloud was slow to lift. I did laundry, the last lot before home and we went for a walk into the village and back.Stephen turned his salmon fillet into sashimi.

After lunch we went for another drive up to Mt John Observatory and got to see Venus through a small telescope.  Today was a particularly good day to see Venus and Stephen was even able to see it with his naked eye.

As we drove back from the observatory we saw a Harrier Hawk harassing a swan on her nest with 5 cygnets. We turned around to go back for some photos of the cygnets and by then the hawk had gone.

Then it was into one of the cafés where we were able to log onto the Internet and catch up with email and upload another blog post. I’m only running 12 days behind! I do have a pretty good excuse, though; it takes me ages to choose the few photos from the hundreds taken each day, then I have to resize them and once uploaded I have to insert them into the posts. It’s all very time consuming and we’re busy having a holiday!

The sky was clear and it was looking promising for a good star-watching night so we went to enquire about the night-time observatory tour. There were seats available on the 11:30pm tour; it goes for two hours. That’s way too late for us. We have an early start tomorrow as we’re moving on to Akaroa for our last two nights.

We decided to drive out past the baby cygnets again and pay a visit to the Lake Alexandrina wildlife refuge. Two of the cygnets were out swimming with dad while mum was tidying up the nest with the other three. The wildlife refuge was a bit of a disappointment – we saw 3 baby plovers and a rabbit. It was just open bare plain. No real wildlife to be seen. And at the end of the dirt road was the fishing camp on the edge of the lake! No sanctuary for the fish.

As we headed back we decided to take a short detour to the local airport to see what was happening as far as scenic flights. We ended up taking a one hour flight over the Alps, around Mt. Cook with views over several glaciers, including Franz Josef, Fox, Murchison and Tasman, and of the west coast and the Tasman Sea.  It was fantastic. There were 6 of us on the flight and the pilot chose Stephen to sit up front next to him so he’d get the best view for photos.  The mountains looked beautiful. The late afternoon light was fabulous on the snow. The glacial lakes looked stunning. The clouds were rolling in on the west coast so the views of Franz Josef and Fox were limited but even the white fluffy clouds filling the valleys with snowy peaks poking through looked amazing from above. The views were indescribably superb.

What a way to end our visit to the Lake Tekapo region! The only downside was that Stephen took the flight company’s advice to adjust some settings on his camera for optimum photography through the plane windows. All of his photos came out very blue! They are going to require a lot of Photoshopping to correct them. That’s close to 600 photos! Luckily I took lots of photos with the little camera!

The Riverside Walk from Highview into Tekapo Village

The Riverside Walk from Highview into Tekapo Village

Tekapo Bridge Spillway

Tekapo Bridge Spillway

Highview - Our Holiday Apartment is the Top Floor

Highview - Our Holiday Apartment is the Top Floor

Swans with their 5 Cygnets

Swans with their 5 Cygnets

Mother Swan with 3 of her Cygnets

Mother Swan with 3 of her Cygnets

Mother Duck on her Nest with a Couple of her Ducklings

Mother Duck on her Nest with a Couple of her Ducklings

One of the Downy Little Lapwing Chicks

One of the Downy Little Lapwing Chicks

Tekapo Air Safaris

Tekapo Air Safaris

Inside the Plane

Inside the Plane

The View as we were Gaining Altitude

The View as we were Gaining Altitude

Braided Rivers

Braided Rivers

Southern Alps

Southern Alps

Southern Alps

Southern Alps

Above the Clouds

Above the Clouds

Rugged Peaks

Rugged Peaks

View to the West Coast

View to the West Coast

Fox Glacier

Fox Glacier

Rugged Peaks

Rugged Peaks

Southern Alps

Southern Alps

Murchison Glacier

Murchison Glacier

Murchison Glacier

Murchison Glacier

Sheer Slopes

Sheer Slopes

Stephen and the Pilot

Stephen and the Pilot

Rugged Beauty

Rugged Beauty

Glacial Lakes

Glacial Lakes

Mt Cook

Mt Cook

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Tasman Glacier

Tasman Glacier

New Zealand Day 22 – Aoraki/Mt Cook

What a glorious day!

It was cloudy when we woke but most of the cloud soon burned off and we discovered that last night’s rain had fallen on the higher ground as snow. All the hills and mountains were freshly dusted white.

Lake Tekapo was looking gorgeous; turquoise surrounded by snowy white peaks. We decided to drive up to Mt Cook, about an hour away. We diverted along one of the hydro canals and past the Mt Cook Salmon farm. Stephen ducked in for a quick look and decided to stop there to buy some on the way back.

The Mt Cook turnoff is back towards Twizel, we were retracing the path that we took the other day when we first came to Lake Tekapo. We once again stopped at Lake Pukaki. The view today was so very different. Today we could see the mountains behind the gorgeously blue lake. The views all day really were fantastic. Mt Cook sits amongst the other peaks of the Southern Alps at the northern end of Lake Pukaki, all snow-capped and looking brilliant in the sunshine with the blue sky and the blue lake.

We arrived at Mt Cook Village and had a look in the Dept. of Conservation Info centre, then had lunch at the ‘Old Mountaineer’s Café’. The owners of this café fought the DOC for ten years to be allowed to build and open the business in Mt. Cook village; until they did so the DOC controlled the only accommodation and eateries. The owners have years of experience as mountaineering guides and have written a book about their experiences and the battle to build and open the café. I know I’m going to regret not buying the book!

Anyway, lunch was delicious (if expensive – but what isn’t around here?) and the views are incredible. Mt. Cook is so majestic.  We couldn’t help commenting over and over on just how beautiful it looks.

After lunch we drove out through the Tasman Valley and walked up to the viewpoint for the Tasman Glacier. It’s not as pretty as the other glaciers we’ve seen, it’s covered in rubble left as the glacier has melted from the top down, but awesome never-the-less. It’s New Zealand’s longest glacier and you can only see a comparatively small part of it. This glacier ends in a lake – Lake Tasman – that has icebergs floating in it; great chunks of ice that have broken off the end of the glacier.

There are several other glaciers up there amongst the snowy peaks and valleys. Everything looks stunning! But you can’t just hang around and gaze at snowy peaks, blue lakes and sunshine. If nothing else, you’d soon get very cold! We headed back and stopped at the salmon farm again on the way home.

After tea at the Japanese restaurant again we went and had a look at the historic little stone Church of the Good Shepherd and the nearby statue of the Border Collie sheep dog, without which the Mackenzie District could never have been successfully farmed.

It’s a beautiful evening, with the mountains all still visible as the sun sets, but once again not a good night for star-gazing due to high cloud.

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Sheep being moved on the Road to Mt Cook

Sheep being moved on the Road to Mt Cook

Aoraki/Mt Cook

Aoraki/Mt Cook

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook Village

Mt Cook Village

Mt Cook

Mt Cook

Mt Cook

Mt Cook

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Glacier Walk

Glacier Walk

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Glacier Walk View

Glacier Walk View

Tasman Glacier

Tasman Glacier

Lake Tasman

Lake Tasman

Tasman Glacier

Tasman Glacier

Top End of Lake Pukaki

Top End of Lake Pukaki

Top End of Lake Pukaki

Top End of Lake Pukaki

Icebergs in Lake Tasman

Icebergs in Lake Tasman

Mt Cook National Park

Mt Cook National Park

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Mt Cook Salmon Farm

Mt Cook Salmon Farm

Church of the Good Shepherd

Church of the Good Shepherd

Sheepdog Monument

Sheepdog Monument

View from Bedroom Window Highview

View from Bedroom Window Highview

New Zealand Day 21 – Lake Tekapo

We woke to overcast but brighter skies this morning, with a small patch of blue sky that grew as the morning progressed. The cloud didn’t completely disappear, but it didn’t need to.  The turquoise lake with its backdrop of snow-capped mountains is so pretty – it’s spectacular.

We drove up Mt John to the observatory. The views from up there are amazing. It’d be great to do a night-time tour of the observatory and get to see the stars through the telescopes, but there is too much cloud around for that. The skies here are supposed to be extremely clear and starry – when it’s not cloudy. We’re here for another couple of nights but I don’t think clear night skies are in the forecast.

From there we drove back down and went to have a look at Tekapo A Hydro station. The canal leading from the power station is just as blue as the lake and very obviously a good place to fish. There were two fishermen trying to catch a rather large fish that kept jumping out of the water near them. I’m sure it was laughing at them as it jumped!

We had lunch in one of the trendy cafes in Tekapo and did a quick Internet check. We don’t have any internet access where we are staying. We needed to order a new modem so that there’s a chance it might arrive before we get home. Hopefully it will and Tanisha will be there to sign for it, otherwise we’ll be without phone or Internet for the weekend when we get home and we’ll have to pick it up from the post office on Monday.

After lunch we drove along the eastern shore of the lake, out towards the Roundhill ski area. The views across the lake were beautiful. There was sunshine, blue skies and fluffy white clouds. The amazingly blue lake in the foreground and the snowy peaks of the Southern Alps lined up on its far shore, all a splendid sight.

Back in our holiday home we are sitting in the living room looking out the big picture window and over the blue lake to the gorgeous snowy peaks beyond and wondering how much of a view the place will have when the land for sale next door is developed. I guess there’ll still be the view of the peaks further south from the balcony, the bedroom and the other windows along that side of the house.

And now there’s thunder so we may yet get rain tonight.

It did rain a little but the sun stayed on the peaks across the lake until sunset. There was also a vibrant rainbow. As we go to bed it’s raining again, heavier and steadily this time.

Mt John Observatory

Mt John Observatory

Lake Tekapo Village from Mt John

Lake Tekapo Village from Mt John

Lake Tekapo from Mt John

Lake Tekapo from Mt John

Today's View from Highview

Today's View from Highview

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Tekapo A Hydro Station

Tekapo A Hydro Station

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Tekapo Rainbow

Tekapo Rainbow

New Zealand Day 20 – Oamaru to Lake Tekapo

We woke to rain this morning. According to the map we only had about 2 ½ hours of driving so the light but steady rain wasn’t too much of an inconvenience. We decided to drive up along the Vanished World Trail (which we actually were driving along for part of yesterday) through the Waitaki Valley.

We stopped to walk through a farmer’s field to have a look at some whale fossils near a place called Elephant Rocks. These are hugs limestone boulders just rising out of the ground. There’s limestone everywhere here just under the surface. All of the historic buildings and many of the newer ones have been built out of it. As you drive through the area you see limestone cliffs all around. Part of the movie The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe was filmed at Elephant Rocks in the Anatini Fossil Valley. It was the site of Aslan’s camp. There’s another movie being filmed there are the moment – Kingdom Come. You can see the construction of a village from the road. Apparently they’ve run out of money though and are having trouble getting more funding; I can’t remember how much it has cost so far but I’m sure it was over $100million, so filming has stopped and may not start again.

The Vanished World Trail included the Fossil Museum at Duntroon. It has a small but interesting collection of fossils; several of them were of ancient and extinct shark toothed dolphins.

There were some Maori rock paintings on some of the limestone along the way. Not only was the limestone (and therefore the art) pretty weatherworn, but there was quite a bit of graffiti as well, and it was a bit hard to tell what was real and what wasn’t. It was quite disappointing so we didn’t bother stopping at the second lot of rock art that we passed.

We went through the little town of Kurow and stopped at the winery there. Stephen tasted a few wines and bought a Pinot Noir. This is probably the only winery that we’ll stop at for our whole trip. From Kurow we took the scenic drive around Lake Aviemore. This road starts off by crossing the Aviemore Dam then continues around the edge of the lake and ends by crossing the Benmore Dam and then rejoining  the highway. The rain continued, along with the low cloud, so we couldn’t really see how pretty the lake was, but we did get a hint if the brilliant blue colour that the lakes in this region are known for. These dams and lakes are all part of the hydro-electric power production that supplies much of the south island with power.

We stopped for lunch at Omarama.  The scenery here is supposed to be fabulous but it was still raining and the clouds were low. We could see the nearby hills through the haze, but nothing else. There are a few tourist places along the highway; it’s obviously a popular stopping place for tourist buses. There’s a demo shearing shed where you can also see the sheep dogs working but it certainly wasn’t the weather for that. Omarama is also known for its world-class gliding and it looked like there was a big gliding meet on.  The glider field was lined with a long row of gliders and the attached campground was lined with campervans.

As we left Omarama we came across another beautiful field of pink and purple lupins.  When we’ve been close to the sea there have been yellow lupins growing wild everywhere. At high altitude there have been hardly any of the yellows but shades from pink through red and pale blue through purple.

After Twizel we passed the turnoff to Mount Cook (the highest mountain in Australasia) and then passed Lake Pukaki. There’s a lookout on the edge of this lake that’s famous for its views of Mt Cook with the turquoise lake in the foreground. We couldn’t have even said that there were any mountains there, but while the lake didn’t look ultra-blue we could see that it was a beautiful colour.

The rain continued as we arrived at Lake Tekapo. We drove past the most brilliantly blue lake of them all (not that we could see just how blue it can really be) and up the hill to the apartment we’ll be staying in for 4 nights. It’s a really nice place with great views of the lake and of the surrounding Southern Alps (or would have if the skies were clear) from the living area and from the balcony and the bedroom. Lake Tekapo is a small village that’s becoming more trendy and is all about tourism. We had a quick look at the shops and had tea at a fabulous Japanese restaurant. There seem to be a lot of Japanese here, there were Japanese working in all of the shops, and a large Japanese tour group came into the restaurant while we were there.

Hopefully the sun will shine tomorrow otherwise we’ll be exploring in the rain!

Leaving the Criterion Hotel Oamaru

Leaving the Criterion Hotel Oamaru

Elephant Rocks

Elephant Rocks

Whale Fossil

Whale Fossil

Anatini Fossil Valley - Location of Filming of Aslan's Camp

Anatini Fossil Valley - Location of Filming of Aslan's Camp

Maerewhenua Rock Art

Maerewhenua Rock Art

Extinct Shark Toothed Dolphin Fossil

Extinct Shark Toothed Dolphin Fossil

Kurow Winery

Kurow Winery

Lake Aviemore

Lake Aviemore

Lupin Fields by the Ahuriri River

Lupin Fields by the Ahuriri River

Lupin Fields by the Ahuriri River

Lupin Fields by the Ahuriri River

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Pukaki

Lake Tekapo

Lake Tekapo

Highview - Our Accommodation at Lake Tekapo

Highview - Our Accommodation at Lake Tekapo

View from the Balcony

View from the Balcony

View through the Lounge Window

View through the Lounge Window