The View that Launched a Thousand Postcards
20.05.2006 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.
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:
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,
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.
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...
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
and began our journey to a place where my hat was to become indispensable - Mount Cook.