The drive from Queenstown to Tekapo was pretty uneventful. It takes about three hours and there is not much in between. Aarowtown is just outside of Queenstown and is a cute mining town, with a nice main street filled with shops, cafes and restaurants. Our plan was to stop there for the morning however it was pouring rain so we just did a drive-by instead and then continued on to Tekapo. We did stop at a Cheesery for some cheese tasting and picked out a cumin spiced Gouda to take home. The other main attraction is a salmon farm where you can feed the salmon (for free!) Erm, no thanks.
We stayed at Peppers Bluewater Resort in a two bedroom apartment, which had a huge lounge and kitchen area. The resort is right across from Lake Tekapo and the main strip which consists of a few restaurants and cafes, a grocery store, and all the main tourist attractions you can book. The apartment was gorgeous and modern, my only complaint would be that it would have been better to have two bathrooms for four adults, instead of one.
The next day we drove to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park, which is about an hour from Tekapo. Here there are a variety of different hiking trails, all varying in length and difficulty. When we arrived it was unfortunately still raining pretty hard, so we just did a short walk called the Kea Trail, which is about an hour long (return). This walk is fairly easy, taking in views of the Southern Alps and Meuller Glacier Lake. When we got back the rain had let up a bit so we decided to tackle a longer walk, which was the walk Dave was originally interested in doing called the Hooker Valley Trail. This one was 3 hours return and took you over three suspension bridges, swinging high above rushing river water. The suspension bridges are pretty freaky to cross as they swing when you walk on them and the water below looks pretty ferocious. A few months ago there was a video of some backpackers who were on a suspension bridge (in New Zealand!) that broke and they fell into the river below! They all survived thankfully and the footage was captured on a GoPro. Needless to say, I couldn't get that out of my head, but I did keep this knowledge from Bunny who hates heights! If you're interested the video is here.
The walk finishes at the Hooker Glacier Lake, although both Bunny and I (with Ella in the baby carrier) turned around before the end. We were all pretty wet and tired after that, and stopped at the OldMountaineer’s Café to warm up and have something to eat before heading back to Tekapo.
That night we had dinner at McKenzie’s Grill restaurant, where you get to grill your meat on your own hot stone grill. It was a bit pricey but that’s pretty typical of being in a small tourist town, but we all enjoyed our meal and the service was very good too. I should also add that we got our morning coffees from Run 76. Excellent coffees and the menu looked great for brunch/lunch although we never had the opportunity to eat here.
Our last full day in New Zealand was jammed packed. First thing in the morning Dave and Andy went to investigate the activities we could do for the day, and about half an hour later they came marching back to our apartment to tell me I had 15 minutes to get ready as we were going to do a scenic flight over Mt. Cook! We did the flight with Air Safaris, who were a terrific and very professional group of pilots. The weather when we were in Tekapo was pretty cloudy and rainy the whole time, so we didn’t think we’d be able to do this sort of thing, but they pilots thought there would be enough of a break in the clouds to do at least part of the flight. What an experience! Every seat is a window seat and the pilot makes a lot of turns so that everyone can see everything. Seeing the dramatic landscape from up above is a truly different experience, you take in Lake Tekapo, Mt. Cook and other mountains and glaciers. Unfortunately because of the cloud cover we were not able to see Franz Josef Glacier, but they discounted the price of the flight because of this which was pretty fair. The pilot’s skills were pretty impressive, as he had to try and keep between the upper and lower layers of cloud so we could get a clear view. Big thanks to Dave for generously offering to pay for Andy and I to take part in this, as our budget is a little bit tight until I go back to work!
After this we picked up Bunny and Ella and drove to the Mount John University Observatory. There is a walk up to the top of Mt John or you can pay $5 to take a road to the top. We drove as we had Ella and then had lunch at the café at the top. The café has floor to ceiling glass windows so you are able to enjoy the view over Tekapo from inside. The observatory offers night time star gazing tours which we were not able to do due to the weather. This was unfortunate as it was one of the primary reasons for going to Tekapo! Andy’s brother did it when he visited New Zealand two years ago and he highly recommended it. Instead we spent our time at the top trying to get some creative photos of Ella. Please note there is someone holding her up in all these photos… I nearly had a heart attack while Andy was trying to get the “perfect shot”!
After the observatory we visited Tekapo Springs, where we relaxed and soaked our aching muscles from the previous day’s walks. There are four pools of various temperature, from 27-39 degrees Celsius. All except the hottest pool are ok for children, and in fact there were a lot of families out enjoying themselves here. There is also a waterslide, tube park and ice skating rink (in the winter), however we just stuck to the hot pools. It was nice to have a soak, but if you have been to PeninsulaHot Springs in Mornington Peninsula then this is a bit of a disappointment!
And that was that! The next day we left at about 6am to catch our flight out of Christchurch, which was just under 3 hours’ drive away. This time our flight was on time, even landing a little bit early in Melbourne. We arrived to a sweltering hot day, I think the temperature was somewhere around 35 degrees, which is a bit too hot to do anything! I spent the day repacking my bags as that night I had a flight to London on my own for a work conference this week (which is where I am now). Needless to say I am a little bit sick of flying and am desperately missing my little Ella and of course her dad as well! However he has been taking good care of her with the help of the grandparents and I am sure they have had a lovely time bonding while I’ve been away. I have one more night here where I will catch up with my London friends before catching a flight back to Melbourne tomorrow morning. I can’t wait to just have some time in Melbourne now – I think my New Year’s Resolution is to travel LESS this year!