A Travellerspoint blog

Lake Tekapo

The View that Launched a Thousand Postcards

sunny 15 °C

19 (afternoon) - 21 May

Did I happen to mention that New Zealand is beautiful already? Even on the brink of winter with dark skies, almost bare trees and snow-pregnant clouds it is impossible not to be filled with awe and admiration for the place on an hourly basis.

Lake Tekapo is a must-see on anyone's South Island itinerary, it is one of the most photographed lakes in New Zealand and also home to the legendary Church of the Good Shepherd.

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We arrived at our hostel in mid-afternoon; a pleasant enough place, it had once been home to workers for the local electricity company. The walk from the hostel to the lake was less than ten minutes, and having settled in we made our way down to the lake shore to take in our first proper views (we'd had tantalising glimpses from the car).

We weren't disappointed:

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Even in the afternoon's fading light, the vivid blue colouration of the lake, caused by the suspension of tiny rock particles in the water, stood out.

The other aspect that hit us immediately was the utter tranquility of this place, especially after the relative bustle of Christchurch. Apart from the muted sound of the occasional passing tourist coach, all was peaceful.
We drank in the views until the sun set,

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at which point we noticed that Lake Tekapo and the village are pretty much unlit at night. And we hadn't brought our torch out with us. Oops.

Saturday 20 May

Time to get walking again - all in the name of viewing more spectacular scenery of course. Atop a hill to the west of Lake Tekapo called Mount John sits an observatory, and our morning's walk was to take us from the village, up to the observatory and then back down a winding track on the far side of the hill to run alongside the lake all the way back to the village again.

This was a typical crisp and misty autumn morning, with seasonally colured trees standing out against the pale background of the sky.

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The gentle climb up through the mist was pleasant but unspectacular; where were the promised landscapes? Well, as we gained height the mist suddenly lifted in our immediate vicinity and - voila! A new panorama of snow-capped mountins...

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Here too, was our first experience of snow underfoot for a very long time. Suitably excited by our first decent New Zealand walking experience, we set out on a smaller but no less scenic walk in the afternoon. The Lake George Scott loop rises gently from the village through a small larch forest then onto a narrow path along a ridge before opening out to give views over the Lake George Scott hydroelectric station and canal.

About halfway in to this short walk we spotted a bench and decided to stop for a snack and a slurp of water, and to take in the surrounding views. Well pleased with our day's exertions we continued the walk back to the village and into the warmth of the local bar where we quickly divested our winter togs.

Some time later... we were leaving and I realised that I couldn't fine my new and beloved woolly winter hat. Of course, I reasoned, I must have left it on the bar when we came in. Nope. In fact, I didn't have a clue where it was and as such I was inconsoleable at the thought of having to buy a replacement.

Sensing my distress, Sharon suggested that we do the George Scott Loop again in the morning. I was utterly convinced that my highly desireable hat was gone for good, but to humour her I agreed.

Sunday 21 May - early morning

We checked out of the hostel shortly after first light, and headed for the start of the George Scott Loop track. Knowing that I'm obviously not the sort of fool who would lose a hat while out walking, I wasn't optimistic.

We sped through the walk, racing through the larch trees and positively sprinting along the narrow ridge path until...
YAY! I spied my poor lonely woolly hat still resting on the bench where I had left it the day before. Sharon was so pleased for me that she completely forgot to berate me for being so stupid and careless in the first place.

Happily reunited with hat, we left beautiful Lake Tekapo behind

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and began our journey to a place where my hat was to become indispensable - Mount Cook.

Posted by andymoore 22:30 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

New Zealand Bound

4 million people, 130 million sheep. Fact. Probably.

sunny 15 °C

Christchurch, Monday 15 - Friday 19 May

Monday

We arose at 04:30 this morning to be checked-in at Sydney Airport for the 08:20 flight to Christchurch. The flight was pleasant enough and in seemingly no time at all we were landing in country number 8 on our itinerary, New Zealand.

Another dose of deja-vu here; New Zealand is as scrupulous as Australia as regards what can and can't be brought into the country. We watched in horror/fascination as fellow travellers were forced to unpack their belongings, but this revealed bags and bags full of potential 'contraband' food items in some cases. We (honestly) declared that we were not carrying any food and were thankfully spared the ignominy of having our hastily packed backpacks disembowelled for all to see. I smugly thought we were safely through Immigration until an officer asked to inspect my shoes; they were filthy - we'd done a lot of walking in Oz - and so I had to hand them over to be washed!

We picked up our shiny 4x4 (a Toyota Rav4) outside the airport, and headed to our hostel in downtown Christchurch. Having stayed in some relatively grotty hostels over the last 5 months, this one (The Old Countryhouse) was a breath of fresh air.

Heading out in the evening, we decided to try out our first New Zealand hostelry, an English-style pub called 'The Bard on Avon'. Expectations were decidedly low after Australia, and so we were pleasantly surprised to find great beer, terrific pub-grub, a roaring fire and, oddly, a 'Skegness is so Bracing' poster on the wall!

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Central Christchurch

Tuesday

At once comfortable with our surroundings, and still feeling pretty campervan/jet-lagged we opted for a day of relaxation today. In town,we booked tickets for the next day's TranzAlpine train journey and, feeling the cold, splashed out on some new winter coats. Then after my cheapest ($5 NZ) and fastest haircut ever - about 5 minutes , I headed off to find an internet cafe in order to do some much needed catching-up on this blog, whilst Sharon returned to the hostel to chill out.
Not fancying a walk back into town this evening, we grabbed a meal from a nearby Chinese takeaway; and here we discovered for the first time that New Zealanders are generally VERY generous with their food portions!

Wednesday

Arriving on New Zealand's South Island, you are unable to avoid the sight of surrounding snow-capped mountains; in fact, wherever you are in the country you tend to be confronted by perfect Christmas card-worthy vistas. The whole place is staggeringly beautiful. Thus, the 8-hour return journey from Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthur's Pass took our breath away - sometimes literally, since the small open-air viewing platform on the train was subject to vicious freezing winds. But here's a taster of what we saw:

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Thinking we'd escaped the tribulations of years of commuting on the UK's hopeless railways, we were amused when one of the locomotives failed on the TranzAlpine train and was replaced by a unit hastily borrowed from a coal train. This hiccup aside, we had a fantastic day. As I write this though, the TranzAlpine company is looking for a buyer to run this very special train service.

Thursday

Bearing in mind that we are here at the very end of Autumn, the weather has been terrific; crisp, clear, cold sunny days. What better way to spend a day then, than go for a walk on the volcano that overlooks Christchurch. And if there's a cable-car (the Christchurch Gondola) to take you up there...

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After the obligatory breakfast at the top, we took a quick one-hour walk heading north-westerly on the crater rim. After this warm-up, we headed back in the opposite direction for a three-and-a-half hour walk in the sunshine, taking in views of Christchurch, Littleton Harbour and the Banks Peninsular and disturbing the odd hill-dwelling cow.

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Feeling virtuous after our day's walking, we ate out this evening at one of the many varied eateries along Oxford Terrace most of which are worth a look if you fancy relaxing the purse strings a bit.

Friday

Time to leave lovely Christchurch for our next destination, Lake Tekapo, but not before spending the morning taking a tram-ride around the city to take in one or two sites of interest:

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Posted by andymoore 21:04 Archived in New Zealand Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Destination Sydney

Farewell Kiss

sunny 20 °C

Friday 12 May

Although a close run thing thanks to rush-hour traffic and a spot of tricksy navigation, we returned the Kiss campervan (our trusty accommodation and transport for the last four weeks)

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on the stroke of 10am. A 40-minute taxi ride took us to our budget hotel in the heart of Sydney proper. Here, the lure of a freshly-made queen-sized bed proved too much after some 'difficult' nights in the van, and we both fell straight in and slept soundly until late afternoon.

The promise of a much celebrated 'English-style' pub prompted us to take an unexpectedly long but pleasant walk through town in the evening, but on arrival we were slightly disappointed to be met by a familiar looking range of Australian fizzies... naturally though, we made the best of the situation.

Saturday 13 May

This morning was spent gathering up stuff to send home to the UK, including a couple of decent bottles. We lugged all this to Sydney's main Post Office and were hit with a postage bill for around $120 AUD!

To recover from this financial blow we decided to spend the afternoon taking in Hyde Park, the Botanical Gardens and Sydney Harbour. The day was sunny and warm, perfect for taking snaps of those oh-so-well-known landmarks...

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Sharon at the Hyde Park fountain

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Some opera house or other

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Downtown Sydney, viewed from the harbour

After such a cultural day, we decided to round off with an evening at the cinema; a (very good) thriller called "Inside Man" which played to an audience of around 15 people!

Sunday 14 May

Our last full day in Australia. According to our guide book, a 'must-do' for Sydney is to take the famous ferry to Manly.

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The hour's journey across the harbour gave a great opportunity to view the many yachts out on the water

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Manly itself is reminiscent of Brighton; a bustling, cosmopilitan seaside resort. Today was Mother's Day in Australia and as such the many restaurants were full at lunchtime, but we found an excellent spot for a terrific fish-and chip lunch. Feeling the need to be virtuous and walk this off, we took the steadily climbing walk through town to scenic North Head which offers panoramic views back towards Sydney.

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After a good afternoon's walk, we made our way back to the ferry terminal as the sun began to set, giving another perfect opportunity for some lovely, cliched photos:

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In keeping with a recurring theme of this blog, we were determined not to leave Australia without having sampled a decent pint, and salvation was at hand at a pub belonging to the Lord Nelson micro-brewery. Cheers!

Posted by andymoore 02:05 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

The Last Leg - Orbost to Killalea

All creatures great and small

sunny 22 °C

9 May

The plan for today was to head for a place called Bairnsdale and spend the afternoon exploring. Once we arrived there, we found that Bairnsdale was much larger than we had anticipated and that our chosen camp spot was miles from the centre of town. We decided to forego the pleasures of Bairnsdale and instead continued to the much smaller but more suitable town of Orbost .

Orbost gave us everything we were looking for except for somewhere decent to eat! Using typical British ingenuity, we bought a mountain of chips from a local cafe, took them back to the campervan and had chip butties for tea! Who says this travelling life isn't healthy?

10 - 11 May

From Orbost, we took the long but largely pleasant drive to the seaside resort of Bateman's Bay. Spending the afternoon exploring amongst the usual array of seafood restaurants and gift shops we spotted two attractions that appealed to us; an animal/bird park (of course!) and a crazy-golf course.

And so, on Thursday 11 we started out at the Birdland Animal Park. We arrived before the 9.30am opening time but a friendly keeper let us in anyway. Whilst we were chatting to her, an expectant looking
Kookaburra landed close by then hopped into the ticket-office waiting to be fed!

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As usual, we wasted no time in heading around the park to see wat was on offer. I didn't waste what was to be my last chance to feed some kangaroos:

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Among the animal "demonstrations" during the morning was Koala feeding time, featuring Boris (left) and Donny,

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the chance to get up-close-and-personal with snakes (Sharon declined, obviously):

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and our highlight - the opportunity to hold our new-found most-favourite animal ever; a baby wombat!

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We also got a good view of the otherwise elusive Echidna here,

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some beautiful - but noisy - Lorikeets,

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and the star of the show, a rarely seen Wallaroo joey in his mum's pouch:

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After the fantastic morning spent at Birdland, I was brought back to earth with a bump as Sharon roundly trounced me at the crazy-golf course; I put my defeat down to fright at the appearance of a large and lethal red-back spider which appeared at hole three, and which I had to call the manager to come out and kill...

With Sydney just a day's drive away, we decided to bow out of life in the campervan on a high note. We spent our last evening in the van in Killalea State Park, around 20km south of Wollongong, with Sharon rustling up a delicious chicken stir-fry accompanied by another terrific bottle of wine.

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Killalea State Park

Posted by andymoore 01:06 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

Australia's Great Ocean Road

Riding along in our automobile, my baby beside me at the wheel

all seasons in one day 20 °C

7 - 8 May

The Great Ocean Road, begun in 1919 to give employment to soldiers returning from World War 1, stretches from Allansford, not far from Warrnambool all the way to Torquay following Victoria's rugged coastline for more than 300km.

Hailed as one of the world's most scenic routes to drive, we were to travel along its length for the next two days. Sadly, on Sunday 7, the weather was a bit variable but we were determined to make the best of this unmissable journey.

The dramatic rock formations caused by coastal erosion provide the scenic aspect to the Great Ocean Road, and there are simply too many to post in a single blog entry, so I'll bring you the highlights, in (roughly) the order we visited them.

First up, the Grotto:

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Just before Port Campbell, a landmark with a familiar name - London Bridge:

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We stopped at Port Campbell for lunch, and to get a few pointers from the Visitor Centre as to where we should head next. They directed us to the spectacular Loch Ard Gorge:

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With sunny spells diminishing and rain becoming more frequent, we pressed on to the famous Twelve Apostles as the afternoon wore on toward evening.

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We settled for the evening at a campsite in Apollo Bay, a cosy little one-street town with an incredible number of eateries! An appraisal of the various menus on the street lead us to the popular Apollo Bay Hotel, where we had a really good meal despite the fact that the kitchen forgot to deliver our main course! The staff could not have been more helpful and apologetic and offered us free desserts and coffees.

8 May

We travelled quite some distance along the Great Ocean Road yesterday, and so on this sunny Monday morning we were easily able to complete our trip along the route.

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With the end of our Australian odyssey drawing near, and Sydney beckoning we felt it best to bypass Melbourne, and so upon leaving the Great Ocean Road at Torquay we headed towards Queenscliff in order to catch the ferry across the Port Phillip Bay to Sorrento.

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Although chilly, the sun was still shining and the hour-long ferry trip across the bay was relaxing and pleasant with dolphins following us in the distance.

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"I'm sure she was standing next to me a moment ago..."

Back on dry land we started covering some distance again, stopping at a deserted, unlit rest area when we were too tired to continue. Hopefully, this would be our last encounter with the evil 'drop dunnys'.

Posted by andymoore 00:45 Archived in Australia Tagged backpacking Comments (0)

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