Monday, 13 February 2012
New Zealand Day Eighteen – Christchurch, Lake Tekapo, Lake Pukaki and Omarama
The tour started this morning with a wake-up call at 7.30, bags outside the room at 8.15 (same time as breakfast) and departure at 9am. I, of course had breakfast at about 6.20am once I realised the restaurant was open from 6am. Then it was onto the coach ready to depart. All isnvery well organised, the coach was full but I was lucky today to get a seat at the front. Tomorrow I will be sitting in a different place as you move up a seat number and the numbering is random.
Our first stop was to the museum and botanic gardens in Christchurch. In the museum I liked the reconstructed Victorian shopping streets and it was easy to imagine what life must have been like for the first settlers arriving in New Zealand.
The botanic gardens had many colourful arrays of flowers and bushes. However, after the natural, rugged beauty of the bush and forest on the North Island, it felt a little too manicured and planned. It was a relief to find an enclave of more native forest in the heart of the gardens.
From there we drove through the Canterbury Plain, which was mostly flat farmland until we reached the town of Geraldine, where we stopped for lunch. The landscape quickly changed to pine forest hills and straw coloured slopes, which were good grazing ground for sheep and cows. Definitely more sheep here than I saw on the North Island.
At Lake Tekapo we stopped to look at the tiny church on the shore and take in the hills around the clear blue lake and then it was on to Lake Pukaki for our first glimpse of Mount Cook….or maybe not. Low cloud cover meant that all that we saw was the base of the mountain rather than its snow covered peak. Seems typical of my luck this holiday and I’m just hoping that when we get another chance to see it from the West coast, the sky will be clearer. It was also disappointing for those hoping to do a flight over the area as no planes were taking off. The scenery so far on the South Island reminds me of Scotland and is very different to the more tropical looking North Island.
Finally we reached our hotel at Omarama and there was just time for a short walk around the area before dinner. The people on my tour are all very friendly and welcoming. One group called me over to sit with them, which was lovely. A mixed group and many not couples but also sisters or friends. They come from Australia, Canada, US, England, Hawaii and Hong Kong. One lady I sat next to lives in Richmond while another is from New York but weirdly was born in Enfield, brought up in Ilford and now works for IBM.
An early morning call tomorrow at 6.30am – somewhat of a shock for some people. We will be leaving at 8am to travel to Dunedin.