Once we’d mastered the art of locating and parking in appropriately sized supermarket car park spaces, it was time to hit the road. We knew we wanted to head south, so on a slight impulse we picked Lake Tekapo as our first stop – about three hours south of Christchurch and sitting just off Highway 8.
We pulled up at the lakeside campsite which, as the description suggests, had a stunning setting.
The lake sits beside Mount John, which has an observatory sitting on the top. On a clear night (alas, we weren’t lucky here) it is fantastic for star-gazing. The observatory was placed here because of the lack of light pollution, and now the light levels are protected to make sure the sky remains clear. It’s a 3 hour hike to the top and back, with some fantastic views of the neighbouring mountains, so the next morning we did just that.
Next to the campsite were some hot baths – very handy for achy legs! – so we headed there to enjoy their three hot pools and sauna and steam room. Annoyingly, we found out they did cheap tickets on BookMe after we’d been!
The campsite owners were – typically for Kiwis – very helpful and chatty. They told us that the lake water is fed by a glacier river originating in the Alps, so the water is incredibly cold. People have drowned in the lake while swimming and the water is simply too deep and cold to recover their bodies. There was a quiet moment while we all contemplated this news; Craig and Pat had (fuelled by half a bottle of rum) gone for a midnight dip the night before wearing little more than a pair of flip-flops. Silently, we all agreed it was best not to share this information with the park staff.
The campsite was also home to some very friendly (some might say pushy?) ducks, who came on a nightly visit to make sure they’d relieved you of any bread going spare (or even bread you weren’t planning on sparing).
Lake Tekapo is about an hours drive from Mount Cook, so easy for heading there if the weather is on your side. We made a valiant attempt to head there but the weather was not on our side. When the highest mountain in New Zealand has a severe blizzard warning, someone is trying to tell you something. We decided that that something was to head to Queenstown.