|Tuesday 14 June 2011 Christchurch
After being woken by a strong 4.7 tremor earlier in the night (and yes the earth did move for us in bed) we were eventually up and at ‘em after sending our emails and blog. We decided to head out of the city (no surprise here) and take a drive to Akaroa which is about an hour or so south east of Christchurch and was colonised by the French and even now has a distinctly French feel with the street names and businesses having French names. The drive was very scenic and a lot more turns and twists and slower than we expected. We stopped to have brunch at the Hilltop Hotel but is was closed on Tuesday’s but Ju took a couple of panoramic pics as it had a pretty good view but the wind was pretty vicious so we quickly headed back to the car to start our way back down the hills. We then stopped in at cheese maker and bought some of their produce and they told us that their machinery was knocked out of its housing from the previous day’s earthquake and they had a fair bit of cleaning up to do before they could start their operations again
We eventually made it to Akaroa and had a quick drive through the small centre of town and parked to have brunch and found a pretty good restaurant that served more than passable fish, chips and salad. A little pussy cat was the lucky recipient of Ju’s meal and she seemed fairly happy to be receiving good tucker for the day. We walked back through the town and went for a short drive further on past the town but little to see so we headed back over the hills and stopped at Lake Ellesmere which Ju christened Swan Lake for the amount of the buggers on the lake. We came across a couple of full on birders who also let us know that there were some white herons and also spoonbills a bit down a path so we went for a walk and saw the herons but the spoonbills alluded us.
As we were nearing Christchurch we came across a winery sign so we took the turn off and headed in for a taste. Turns out that they had just got power back on and the owner was happy to give us a taste of Rossendale wines. We tried most of their product and settled on their Riesling before heading up to Port Hills where there is a good view over Chirstchurch and is also the way through to the devastated area of Lyttleton. It’s a very step road and some of the bends higher up were a bit of a concern considering the shakey ground but we made it to the top only to see a very dusty city. Christchurch is surrounded by mountains and the earthquakes raise a lot of dust and this was choking the air so it wasn’t a good view so we headed back to the city to fuel the car for the drive tomorrow (NZ$2.05 per litre) and then picked up a few groceries. All the major shopping centres were closed because after every major earthquake they have to be re-assessed for structural damage so it’s a case of “here we go again” for locals who are now very tired of the whole situation. As soon as they think they can move on another quake happens, liquefaction occurs (crap everywhere from the ground like a muddy quicksand) and they need to clean up again if their lucky and still have their house. It would be like the affected Brisbane suburbs having flood every three or four months. Pretty soul destroying.
We managed to grab a few things from the supermarket that was open and headed back for the night to pack up and have nibbles for dinner over a bottle or two and settle in for the night.
Actually a “funny” thing happened when we checked in. I gave our names and the first thing he said (in front of us both) was that we were the couple going ballooning. He was actually a bit embarrassed after I told him that we were indeed the couple however it was a surprise for Ju! The reason I bring this up now is that the company rang and said that it couldn’t go ahead so it wasn’t a big loss for Ju anyway – luckily. The plus side was that we were able to sleep in and decided to head off later at about 10:00am – at least that was the plan as we went to bed…….
Wednesday 15 June 2011 Christchurch – Lake Tekapo
I was up, had a shower and intending to head back to bed to watch the morning NZ brekkie TV show when we were hit again with a 5.0 tremor that lasted about 5 seconds. It more or less woke Ju so it was a quick change of plans to get the hell out of Christchurch and head for the hills – Lake Tekapo in fact!
The drive was a good one and soon had the shaky town in the rear view mirror with our first stop the Tin Shed which is a very good woolly store stocking a great range of stuff including a lot of Possum Merino products. We had a good look around and made a couple of purchases before stopping a bit further down the road at Geraldine. This was a nice quaint little town and we stocked up on a few food supplies for the next couple of days as we were unsure what would be open or available at Lake Tekapo. We also called into the tourist info centre and they had quite a bit of good info so we were then all prepared to head off on route 79 to our destination.
We had only another hour to Lake Tekapo so we decided to head straight for Mt John which proved a great decision as the sky was total blue and Mt John offered 360 degree views of Lake Tekapo and the surrounding area. It was very windy however which apparently is fairly common. We wanted to do the Earth Sky tour (refer to tomorrow’s diary) but decided to leave it as it was the later tour being offered tonight. After taking quite a few snaps and video we headed down the mountain and booked into our accommodation.
This was fantastic and better than anticipated with an apartment on the top level of a two storey house overlooking the lake and snow covered mountains in the distance. The lounge has full floor to ceiling retractable glass doors that allow us to sit on the lounge and take in the speccy views over a glass or two. Niiiiiicccceeee. Our hosts who live in the house downstairs (Ban and Kaori) are Japanese who work at the Mt John Observatory and are really nice people and have a cute labby as a pet.
We settled in to watch the sunset over a glass or two and then headed out for a good Thai meal a five minute walk down the path and across the bridge to the little city centre. Home for a Sambuka and Lemoncello we bought from the Prenzell store at Geraldine earlier in the day and to bed with a sky light in the ceiling.
Thursday 16 June 2011 Lake Tekapo
A sleep in while waiting for the sun to come up at about 8:30! Very unusual but a bit of treat with no fur ball to come in wanting to get let out and fed so we’re making the most of it. Today is another fantastic day with blue skies all around so we’re heading up to Mount Cook to have a look and see what walks are available. We called into the Earth and Sky tour centre and booked our tour for tonight and then visited the information centre and bought a walking brochure for the Mount Cook National Park and headed off.
A very pleasant and surprisingly quick drive with only slight bends and the scenery was spectacular as we approached the Mt Cook Reserve with a huge Lake Pukaki surrounded by snow capped mountains . We arrived at the Mount Cook village to find the information centre was closed along with one of the cafes! Strange considering peak season is just around the corner as soon as they have a good snow fall. Nevertheless we headed to the Hermitage for lunch and with our trusty brochure of walks we took off on the three hour return walk to the Hooker Valley which was a fairly good track although over a lot of rock and we traversed two swing (suspension) walk bridges to reach the end which was a slightly disappointing view of a glacier and lake but an up close look of Mt Cook - but it was a good walk irrespective. We eventually made it back to the car a little sore in the foots and legs but feeling as though we had conquered Mount Cook – which we did have a great view of from just about every angle and it was coated in a good smattering of snow especially at the peak. Out hosts informed us we were lucky to get such a clear and sunny day to view Mt Count as good viewing is only achieved about 30% of the time.
We had a good drive back in time to freshen up and have a relaxing gin before heading off to take a bus back to Mt John with another 30 other people to take the Earth and Sky Tour. It was a fantastic night for viewing being totally clear and also a full moon. There were about 6 telescopes to look through over the next hour and a half including their biggest an 84 megapixel three foot in diameter with its rotating shell through which we clearly saw Saturn and her rings and the area in between. Ju was very excited to see Saturn and her rings so clearly – so much so she did three laps of the telescope so she could take it in again and again!! Viewing the full moon was also a highlight – it was so bright and when you looked away from the telescope you had trouble seeing out of one eye – a little lopsided for a while! It was a great night and Ju enjoyed it way more than she thought she was going to.
Friday 17 June 2011 Lake Tekapo
Very much a case of kicking back today chilling around the little town centre. Up late and we strolled to the Church of the Good Sheppard and then to the monument for the all the cattle dogs in the Mackenzie Basin area who have (and continue) played such a large role in assisting the sheep industry in the area. From here we wandered over to the shops and cafes and Ju snapped up a couple of bargins before we went for a walk along the foreshore and stopped at Mackenzie Grill and Bar for a couple of pints and some pretty good fush and chups.
After such a big day we then headed back to our apartment to soak up the views and do a bit of housekeeping and packing over a wine or two while watching the falling light over the lake. Unfortunately our time here was almost at an end so we settled in for the night with cheese and wine and had an early night in readiness our drive in the morning.