Mountains and Lakes along the Inland Scenic Route

Trip Start Jan 01, 2008
Trip End Dec 29, 2008

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Thursday, June 12, 2008

The scenery in NZ seems to change all the time and there is always something beautiful, dramatic or amazing to look at. Our journey for the next few days will take us along one of New Zealands Great Drives, this one being The Inland Scenic Route 72.    

Views of the Southern Alps loomed up in the distance and we stop at a few spots just to gaze at the scenery  (Burkes Pass was particularly lovely).   The scenery we drive through includes the Canterbury Plains which are mainly huge fields of sheep (of course!), deer or cattle.  The Mackenzie Mountain range keeps us company for much of the time too and it is a lovely combination.   

We spot a DOC (Dept. Of Conservation) site along the way and thought we would give this a go and take a 15km detour off the main route. We find the site but there is no one around so, as instructed, we park up with the intention of paying our fees at the local shop back in the village.  Big mistake!  We didn't notice that the place we choose is waterlogged and we get stuck in the mud!  We are a little concerned as we are in the middle of nowhere with no one else around.  Anyway, Carolyn goes hunting for some dead trees branches and starts to place these under the wheels whilst I practise my winter driving skills (and get stuck deeper and deeper into the mud). Anyway, after about 20 minutes, we get back onto the track and decide that we will head on into Geraldine town where we spend the night, thankfully, without incident parked up somewhere solid. 

From Geraldine it was yet another spectacular drive alongside the scenic route with snow capped mountains all the way to Lake Tepako, a small town on the banks of the lake.  As we pull into the town we stop by the "Church of the Good Shepherd", a very small (and famous) church on the banks of the lake. The church probably doesn't hold more than20-30 people but must have the best view of any church anywhere in the world. In place of the usual stained glass behind the altar is a clear glass picture window looking out over the lake to the mountains behind.  What an incredible setting!

Near the church also on the shores of the lake, there is a memorial to a collie dog "without whose help, we could not look after the sheep"

We drive around the lake to our campground and park up by the shores of the lake to watch the sunset.
Last night was the coldest so far, I reckon about -5C  (luckily our powered site meant that we could keep our electric heater on all night to keep our van cosy).   In the morning we are woken, once again by the sound of ducks (surely they haven't followed us??). Feeling sorry for them, I feed them some bread which really starts them quacking which appears to really piss off the woman coming out of the next van, whom, I judge, is not really a morning person!

Anyway, after upsetting the neighbours and having breakfast overlooking the lake (which appears to be steaming at this time?) we head out on a walk up to the observatory on the summit of Mount St John.  A very steep walk up through pine forests and onto open grassland where we spot the biggest rabbit ever!  It was in the distance, but I swear it was at least three feet long!  As we approach the summit we are treated to views of the snow capped mountains virtually surrounding us.  Good job we are wearing the thermal underwear as it is really cold and the ground is frozen solid.  We choose the longer route back from the summit along the lake shore and some 3 hours later we have warmed up somewhat, our feet ache but we have just been for one of the best hikes ever.

Back to the van for some of Carolyn's homemade lentil soup before heading off for another treat, the hot springs on the hillside above the town.  These are 3 man-made geo-thermal, mineral springs designed in the shape of the three lakes in the area and each is heated to a different temperature. Sitting and in the hottest pool, looking up at the pine trees and out to the lake and the mountains beyond, I ask myself.  Does it get any better than this?

After our soak in the springs we set off to our next destination which is Mount Cook, still in the Mackenzie ranges and is where Sir Edmund Hilary did his training prior to his successful ascent of Mount Everest. 
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