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!