After the excitement of the glacier we ventured north east to another beautiful lake, Lake Tekapo.
We drove about the town for a brief while and found ourselves outside the Lake Tekapo Hot Pools. It’s not a volcanic hot spring facility as we’d imagined, but an actual spa where you can chill out in some very warm pools. Although we would have loved to have bathed in the 30 plus degree pools for the evening, priority one was to find a place to sleep.
Milly, using her now expert navigation skills, found us a shit campsite about 12km from the centre next to a beautiful lake called Lake Alexandria. The lake was lovely and the campsite was cheap. They didn’t have running water so we were forced to use the pumps, which took the water from the nearby creek, to wash the pots. We’d fed ourselves on a succulent cod fillet, beautifully seasonsed and immersed in butter – with Uncle Ben’s mexican rice. Not as odd mix as you may have thought actually as we wolfed them down.
We drew the blinds on Brucey and awoke to lovely sunshine and made the choice to take a hike up the local ‘hill’, called Mount John (as advised by Daniel and Michelle). The climb was kind and offered an observatory point at the top along with a slanted bench which provided its services to star gazers. Not sure if the bench was supposed to be there as it wasn’t bolted down and Milly attempted to sit on it the wrong way round. She got spooked when she realised it wasn’t secured into the rocks below and jumped off before her and the bench nearly sledged down the hill together.
We continued on the long walk which went along The Lake’s western shore line and on the way back had a go at skimming stones as there was a shale beach containing some perfect ‘skimmers’. I managed to crank out an impressive 16 skimmer. Milly managed an admirable 3. I don’t know if Stuart, her father, is to blame for not teaching her how to skim or if Lake Tekapo just doesn’t work.
There’s an age-old church which overlooks the east part of the bay which we tootled over to have a gander at – I think it’s called Church of the Wandering Shepherd, but I might be wrong. Anyway, for some reason loads of tourists were there taking pics although I preferred the view of the river next to it running into the lake. I’m not too sure its even that old. The pointing looks to have been done recently and the roof doesn’t look to be in much bother either.
After the long walk we decided to hop into the aforementioned Hot Pools. Now, given it was a baking hot day, we didn’t really need to warm up, but we do like to indulge a little (plus they had good wifi which goes at a premium in NZ) so we treated ourselves for the afternoon. We manoeuvred between the different degrees of pool (there were 4 pools ranging from 28 degrees up to 39 degrees) until our skin resembled Bruce Foresythe’s ball sack. By that time we had worked up quite a thirst so we hit the local bottle shop to stock up before heading back to the campsite we’d stayed in the evening prior.
We’d previously bumped into a bonny little trio called Kenny, an English/Australian law student, Paddy, a German lad who’d just finished a Civil Engineering degree and Piotre (I think that was her name anyway), a young German lass who had also just finished university. We hung out with them for the remainder of the evening until I was too pissed to talk anymore and staggered back to the Jucy. I think those Hot Pools did a number on me because not only was I totalled after about 7 stubby cans but my skin had dried out to the point that the soles of my feet cracked; not great when you have a shit load of walks planned. Moral of the story is, if you’re going to Lake Tekapo Hot Pools, don’t stay in them for more than 3 hours.
As you can imagine, not much went down the next day. We already knew in advance that we’d be retracing our steps back towards Wanaka as our path took us up the west coast of the Island and there’s only one road to take you there so we had a rather challenging drive back past the magnificent Lake Pukaki and down into Wanaka. I say challenging because not only were we hungover but the wind had picked up and was throwing Brucey about the road like a pace bowler. Luckily the roads out here aren’t difficult to drive on and apart from avoiding the masses of road kill, there’s not too many tricky bends, lanes or roundabouts. In fact, I think I’ve only seen 2 sets of traffic lights since we’ve been here and we’ve driven over 2000km.
We stopped about 10 minutes outside of Wanaka next to Lake Hawea, another idyllic fantasy land, which, if it were in any other country would be centre piece of every tourist magazine, but, as it has to compete with Lake Wanaka and Lake Tekapo, nobody gives much of a shit about it, and, it’s therefore very peaceful. We threw on a couple of steaks for tea and I followed this up by applying some Alan Partride esq. foot cream to my raw feet before calling it a night.
We had hoped to wake up early and do some serious walking in Lake Wanaka’s vicinity, but given I was practically disabled we were forced into having a rest day so pondered about Wanaka looking at the local goods. As we were walking about the local posse of Harry Crishner’s were performing some sort of jamboree through the street and we avidly filmed them, as did most of the other tourists in Wanaka. They seemed happy to wave though and afterwards we spent the rest of the day trying to get their catchy tune out of our heads.
After a beautiful lunch at an up-market restaurant we found a campsite a couple of kilometres up the road on the banks of the River Clutha. One thing that you should know is that all (well most anyway) rivers in NZ are beautiful. They have this blue colour to them which you just don’t see (or we haven’t anyway) anywhere else we’ve been. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, they’re dazzlingly blue, as if they’ve had there natural colour chemically altered – I’m quite sure that it’s actually the minerals which they carry down from the mountains rather than any performance enhancing drug though.
As we sat and read our books on the river banks we were approached by a flock of ducklings which we couldn’t resist feeding. It was hilarious as Milly fed the poor buggers fistfuls of whole meal bread which they were clearly struggling to digest then as she attempted to feed them some crumbs from the palm of her hand she shit-it. I think her later comment was that ‘a full grown duck could take the end of your finger off with its powerful beak!’.
Overlooking the Lake there is a vineyard which is actually free to go around and have a wine tasting session. We bobbed up to see what the craic was and pretend to everyone that we knew a thing or two about wine. The wines were lovely but we didn’t bother buying a bottle because there was a wedding going on at the same time and one of the guys was quite rude to Mill so we thought we’d get off before over staying our welcome.
During our earlier walk around Wanaka we happened upon an adorable little cinema called ‘Paradiso’ which had a showing of Collateral Beauty (good cast to be fair: Will Smith, Edward Norton, Kiera Knightly, Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet) showing in the evening. We do love a good cinema date so we gave them a tinkle and booked a couple of tickets. What a lovely place – it had two screens and the food from the cafe there was a delight (we ate it all before we’d gone into the screening). We took our seats on a comfy sofa and although the film was mediocre we had a lovely chilled evening and my feet thanked me greatly for it as the next day we had an epic walk planned.