MacKenzie Region (Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki) + ‘Alps to Ocean’ Road

Monday 05/03

We wake up at 8am.

After a shower, we leave without taking our breakfast. We indeed want to see 2 of the highlights of Lake Tekapo (Church of the Good Shepherd and Mt John) before the tour buses arrive.

Our “plan” wasn’t very successful. Chinese tourists were already around the church when we arrive. The church (and the town itself) faces out across the turquoise Lake Tekapo. Inside this little church, a picture window behind the altar gives churchgoers a distractingly divine view of lake and mountain majesty.

After a quick stop at the ‘Four Square’ supermarket, we go by car to nearby Mt John (1,030m). When we arrive, we are nearly in the clouds. We take our breakfast in the camper. Isabelle prepares French toasts.

The weather clears up. We have a nice view of the Tekapo Lake.

We drive to Lake Pukaki, the largest of the Mackenzie’s three alpine lakes. The lake is a vast jewel of totally surreal colour. We stop at the lookout, at the southern end of the lake, just off the highway. The lookout affords great views across the lake’s waters all the way up to Mt Cook and it’s surrounding snow-covered peaks. Beside the lookout, the visitor centre is actually an outpost of Mt Cook Alpine Salmon, the highest salmon farm on the planet. We buy 1 kilo of sashimi for tonight’s dinner.

We continue to the Clay Cliffs. Along the way (a small detour from the main road), we see a herd of sheep crossing the road.  We arrive at 2pm at the Clay Cliffs. Time for a quick lunch. Sandwiches today (with the nice baguettes that we bought this morning). First time we use the chairs and the table of our camper. We walk (10′) to the nice pinnacles, ravines and ridges that have been shaped by erosion. The weather is good. Scenery is great, with nice colours.

Our next stop is Benmore Dam, the largest earth dam in the land. It holds back enough water to power around 300,000 homes. Its concrete penstocks, pipes and flow ways add “industrial elegance” to the surrounding golden hills and pretty waters.

Further, we stop at Elephant Rocks, an isolated geological site with a series of huge limestone boulders lying like oddly cast, oversized knucklebones on a meadown with sheep roaming around. The sun has unfortunately disappeared a few minutes before.

The road that we take today is also called the ‘Alps to Ocean’ road. It’s also the name of one of the best Great Rides, the ‘A2O’, which serves up epic vistas from the foot of the Southern Alps all the way to the Pacific Ocean (at Oamaru). This off-road trail parallels the road that we take for much of the way.

We reach the coast at Oamaru, where we continue south, towards Dunedin on the SH1.

We do a quick stop at the Moeraki Boulders, a collection of large spherical boulders scattered along the beach. But they must be seen at low tide and it’s now high tide… Moreover it’s raining so it’s not worth it at all…

We arrive at the Holiday Park and Motels at 8:30pm. Our usual Top 10 Holiday Park was unfortunately full for tomorrow night when I called this afternoon and we want to stay 2 nights in Dunedin (weather will be bad tomorrow but should be good on Wednesday).

We did 400 km today.

After our shower, we eat the salmon sashimi that we bought earlier today, with quinoa, avocado and carrot.

Kids read until 10:45pm. I work till 1am.


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