Milford Sound to Picton

Trip Start Jan 03, 2012
Trip End May 02, 2013

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Where I stayed
Wooded Gully (Mt Thomas) Campsite, Loburn
Lindis Pass Historic Hotel Campsite
Lake Tekapo Holiday Park

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, May 1, 2012

We rolled back into Queenstown just before dusk and treated ourselves to dinner at a cozy, rustically decorated place called Chico's. In our riskiest bid for a cheap sleep yet we left Queenstown in the dark in search of a free campsite off the highway.  Thanks to Sylvia's surgically sharp eyes we found it and slept in the car again.  At the same site, the derelict Lindis Pass Historic Hotel lies in ruin, making for some interesting pictures at sunrise.

From there we continued northward amid panoramic views of the many peaks in the area, including a glimpse of Mount Cook.  We veered left to the impossibly night-glow-blue-in-the-daytime Lake Pukaki.  Suspended sediment in the water left by retreating glaciers refracts the light to produce this you-won't-believe-it-until-you-see-it colour.  Further up the same road the extreme wind made it difficult to drive straight and dark clouds formed a grey wall between us and Mount Cook.  The rain began to fall lightly and grew steadily in intensity. The activities desk adjacent to the deluxe hotel discouraged hiking as they were expecting more foul weather and possibly snow later in the day.  We briefly checked out the museum which included an interesting Sir Edmund Hillary exhibit, then hightailed it out of there.

We rented a cabin at a Lake Tekapo holiday park and, after two nights in the car, welcomed the comfort of a bed.  But first we ventured out for a short hike up Mount John.  The sky was uncooperative so we cut it short and went grocery shopping, did laundry and more trip planning instead.  Having to walk across the parking lot in the cold pouring rain to take a shower was an unpleasant experience.  Lucky for Sylvia, Jason picked her up in the car and drove her back to the cabin.

A fresh new morning with sunny skies got us going again.  We had a bit of a late start and the sight of Mount Cook and friends across Lake Tekapo slowed our progress, in a good way.  This lake shares the same 'unbelievablue' colour as its neighbour, which looks stunning against the snow white peaks.

Jason drove through a multitude of different landscapes along scenic route 72 and finally arrived at the turnoff for Erewhon / Mount Potts.  Heading further inland via a long stretch of sealed and unsettling gravel road we reached our destination.  Mount Sunday looked stunning behind the rocky outcropping used to portray 'Edoras' in ‘The Lord of the Rings’ films.  It was hard to imagine making movies in such a remote and untamed location, let alone building (and subsequently tearing down) a city on top of this exposed hill.  We were almost literally blown away as the wind howled while we pointed our cameras in all directions, knowing it would be impossible to capture the true feeling of this awesome setting.

Back on the road we headed for our campsite and when we pulled in we savoured wine, cheese and crackers followed by chili for dinner.  We cooked it in the same brutal wind, using the car and a tree as windbreaks.  Sylvia passed out briefly from wine, food and exhaustion.  The rain began to fall as the last faint glimmer of daylight disappeared.  Another long night in the car had begun.

It was seven degrees Celsius in the car at 7:00 am so it must have been below zero outside in the middle of the night.  We reheated the leftover chili for breakfast and did the dishes in the bitter cold.  The sun rose, warmed us and lighted the way north to Kaikoura on the South Pacific coast.

Ahhh Kaikoura... what a beautiful place!  Nestled on a peninsula jutting out into the ocean with snow-capped peaks as a backdrop; who could ask for anything more?  We did and in return received fresh seafood (large local crayfish, paua and loaded chowder) and seal colonies viewable from (and on) the shore.  After picking up a few gifts we darted out of town with Picton in our sights.

The ocean-side drive was spectacular with waves crashing against sea stacks and a rocky coastline.  The highway wound around some of the hills and tunnelled through others.  Further inland we entered the Marlborough wine region and the colourful grape vines seemed endless.  Jason loved driving New Zealand's roads but with so much scenery it was often difficult to keep his eyes on them.  We arrived in Picton in time to cook a perfect roast beef dinner with blue cheese, carrots, potatoes and pinot noir.  Sylvia was in heaven when The Villa served up free apple crumble and ice cream for dessert.  We enjoyed a cozy night with free wifi and slept in a real bed in preparation for our morning ferry back to the North Island.
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This looks nice

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