I am so glad I chose to veer off to the West today, from Oamaru, and go to Lake Tekapo, instead of going directly North towards Christchurch. When I think of the things I would have missed!
Lake Tekapo sits right in the centre of the South Island – not quite the middle – and glorious though it is, it was not the only delight to be encountered today on my travels. Due west of Oamaru, and about a third of the way towards Omarama where I swung North, I came across some fascinating rock formations in a gully.
Further on, there was a large noticeboard and parking area, and so I stopped for a gander. My expectations were quite low: the weather was drizzly and grey, the landscape was the usual rural rolling pastureland until this point. I read ‘Elephant Rocks’ and my interest was piqued. Apparently all around me was a prehistoric seafloor, and the limestone all about was an abundant source of fossils. Written on to the walls of some of these formations is te reo (Maori) as well as pictures of sailing ships and horses. This particular formation of rock was known as a herd of elephants, for obvious reasons.
I flicked a few pictures off and got out of the drizzle and drove the few kms to the nearby town of Duntroon. Ready for my morning coffee my first point of interest was the ‘Flying Pig’ cafe and its bright pink colour. I fleetingly noticed a info centre for the fossils and geosite, and then a blacksmith, before pulling my lumbering vehicle in to the parking space by the Pig. What a great cheese scone and coffee it was too.
Afterwards, I set off to look in on the Blacksmiths, and was amazed at the number of tools and the working areas that were in there, and that this had operated as a Blacksmiths way back in the day and the tools etc are from then. Just as I pushed a few coins into the honesty box and prepared to go, an older man came across the road from where he had been chatting to mates, and offered to show me around. He was one of the volunteers who work in the smithy, and I got a personal tour in behind the barricade and around the shop. So interesting.
Then as I left to go and look at the Fossils, he told me not to avoid the Brewery Hole – a hole in the ground that lead into a network of waterfilled caverns, full of artifacts and fossils. I walked down and stared at the murky waters that disappeared under a rock face and thought of the courage of those cavers who had gone in there already and taken photos. It is extensive and goes way into the underground.
No sooner had I walked out and started again for the info centre, finally introducing myself to the helpful man, whose name is Harry, than he pointed out that his house was further along the road and had some of his iron work in the front garden. I made plans to go and check it out on the way out. I joined a small party listening to the history of the region in the info centre, and slipped away having taken a few photos. Amazing that they had moa bones, and shells, and other fossils so far inland as we were.
And you think that was all? In such a small township, to find discovery after discovery. . . It was not over. I crossed the road to view a unique shed which housed some free books and often bags of fresh vegies that are put there by the locals. As I stood there, a woman came by and said she was opening up the historic jail house which was just next door, so I chatted with her for a while before going in to see. It was the authentic jail used here to hold criminals or law-breakers for the area. The cell was sadly reminiscent of the Dunedin Holiday Park cabins, but I won’t go there.
Wow, I thought, as I headed back to my van. They’ve really got some treats here in a small neck of the woods. I stopped at Harry’s place and photographed his delightful and large iron sculptures in his garden, and then hit the road again.
Soon I reached Kurow, to my relief, because I was getting low on diesel. I filled up and carried on along a pretty two-lane highway and just after Aviemore, stopped to make lunch in the van overlooking a spacious lake. The foliage in Springtime is so soft and rich in colour. The lake water so blue (or so I thought until I saw BLUE later).
I stopped at the Aviemore dam and took photos, and read about the salmon and how they have managed to provide separate waterways for the salmon to go up river now that the dam blocks their progress. It was lovely to see the lakes again, and especially the increasing sharp dark shapes in the horizon that were lost in cloud, but straggling beards of snow showed beneath the cloudline at times.
At Omarama (just before it really) I turned North, and on to a major thoroughfare to the Mt Cook track and other ski resort and adventure grounds. The drizzle had stopped but in the distance the tallest snow filled peaks were lost in dark low cloud. At Twizel I pulled off the road and rode through town just looking at it. Nothing struck as significant – it seemed a place to go if you were starting one of the many outdoor adventures possible in the area. Soon after Twizel I went approached signs for a salmon farm, and over a low bridge which spanned remarkably teal water. It was so colourful I found the nearest parking space and took photos. It was the first of many photos I took from now on, each one getting more and more spectacular.
In the distance – nearer now – was Mt Cook somewhere. I could only see the foothills, but when Lake Pukaki came in to view, it was breathtaking. The colour of the water in its jewel-like teal shade, and the mountains rearing up behind, and the turbulence of the sky.! Click click click. I didn’t want to leave. Eventually I pulled into some long straights along the countryside thinking I was moving away from the mountains but no, suddenly they came up again ahead of me, and soon I approached another lake glistening in splendid azure colour and surrounded by mountains. Lake Tekapo.
I have walked the township and bought items at the Four Square grocery store. I have got a powered site in the extensive holiday park, and my view of the lake is lovely. I walked in the other direction to see the hot springs, but don’t want to walk all the way back in my swimming costume and try them out. It seems a bit of a way, and costs $30, and I’m a bit pooped. It is so good to be here – I feel very lucky. I have eaten some hot chicken nibbles from the store, and toast. When I looked out a while ago, a rainbow hung over the distant slopes and I had to go and photograph that too. Amazing.
I hope the photos give a small idea of the splendours of the day.