Christchurch used to be a jewel of a city. With its cathedral and the river running through it, it echoed English cities like Bath or Chichester. Then the earthquakes hit, flattening it and killing almost 300 people. Even five years later the wounds are clearly visible. We used it as a staging post to pick up the Mighty Chariot. Leaving early in the morning (around tennish), we pointed the car at the distant mountains and headed towards the high country. I was doing the driving, so I didn’t get as many pictures as Other People.
Driving to the mountains is odd. You can see them from hundreds of kilometers away, and you seem to spend hours without getting any closer. Then you come around a corner and suddenly MOUNTAIN!
About two-thirds of the way to our destination we came to the mountain lakes, Tekapo and Pukaki.
The lakes are an incredible vivid blue. It’s caused by microscopic rock particles suspended in the water, called ‘glacial flour’.
We stood on the south shore of Lake Pukaki. Looking north the distant view was shrouded in clouds. Weather changes fast in the mountains, and soon we saw something looming out above the clouds. A quick check of the map showed us we were seeing Aoraki/Mt Cook emerging from the clouds. It’s the highest mountain in New Zealand at a around 12,300ft. It’s impossible to communicate the emotional impact from seeing a mountain at this scale. It was clearly much larger then the other mountains around the lake, in a different class altogether. What astonishes me is the way it imposes itself on the scenery even when it is 70km away. The pictures can’t capture the intensity of the impression it makes.
The lake levels vary as the snow melts and the water is used for the hydro power stations. Sometimes a plane finds itself in the wrong place.
It’s rocky terrain, what with it being in the actual mountains. Where there are rocks, there shall be idiots standing on top of them. Me, in this case.
A short drive later we arrived at Merino Lodge, an exclusive location run by Anne, a farmer. She’s not farming any land any more, so she runs the lodge to keep busy. It’s an utterly wonderful place. We had a fantastic couple of days there, which I shall post about later.