Down Under - Winter/Spring 2009 travel blog

Church of the Good Shepherd

close up

enjoying the view

Lake Pukaki

another view

Lake Takapo

close up

Mount John Observatory

Mt. Cook in the distance

lonesome road

two watersheds

We had considered staying on in Akaroa to take a boat ride but the southerlies roared in from Antarctica. Sounds cold doesn’t it? The temperatures did go down about 20º, but more depressing was the rain that came with it. So we hit the road wipers wiping. Much of the drive was through flat agricultural country, which could become as boring as the flat corn fields we come from. But every so often we saw a corral of llamas or deer as well as the ever present sheep and cows. We stopped at the grocery store and lingered at the magazine rack, wondering if we should buy “Tractors Today” or “Tractor Life.” Gripping stuff.

Once the route turned west the land changed again, reminding us of the big sky country of Montana. The rain made a picnic unappealing so we stopped at a restaurant, where all the food was homemade, delicious and pleasantly unfamiliar. The chatty proprietor called ahead and told us that the clouds were moving out of Lake Tekapo, our first destination. With that encouraging news we headed west again.

There are few expressways in New Zealand, but they really are not needed. Even on busy route 1 where we shared the road with many trucks, there were intermittent passing lanes that kept things moving. The roads are well maintained and have shoulders, something we don’t take for granted after driving in Mexico. Drivers are courteous and the roads are well marked. We stopped occasionally for road repairs; summer is road repair season in our country, too.

When we rounded the corner and caught the first glimpse of Lake Tekapo, we could hardly believe our eyes. The colors in today’s photographs are as really as can be. The lakes in this area are formed by glacial melt and the silt that the glaciers grind off the rock faces, hangs suspended in the water and causes the bright aquamarine color. At one viewpoint we could see a lake adjacent to Lake Tekapo that obviously was not draining a glacier and had it had a much more normal hue. The Mount Saint John Observatory overlooks Lake Tekapo and the drive to the top was one switch back after another. But our courageous drivers and faithful campers were up to the task and the view from the top make us forget our white knuckles. Spectacular.

Then we drove down the road to Lake Pukaki and saw that same aquamarine color again with snow tipped peaks far in the distance. Mount Cook and its sisters are the highest peaks in the area and will merit a visit tomorrow. On the way to Mt. Cook we will pass the glacier that has been generated all this beautifully colored water and carved the valleys where the lakes have formed.

The Kiwi’s take advantage of all this water flow to generate hydo power. Much of this electricity is generated in drainage tunnels beneath the ground, creating the power without creating an eyesore. Very smart indeed.

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