Aoraki wrapped his cloak tightly around him this morning, his form not even a whisper in the mist. We had our breakfast and hit the road. But as we drove away along the shores of Lake Pukaki, the shroud lifted a little like a last farewell. Linda found a vantage spot where she could park and we could take our last photos of the peaks.
The alpine lakes really are that amazing blue, even if the sky is cloudy. It’s due to fine silt particles, or glacial flour, in the water. This is a result of glacial erosion. The silt is so fine it does not settle to the bottom quickly, remaining in suspension in the lake water.
Our next stop would be at Lake Tepako where I finally got a chance to take a photo of lupins with the lake and the mountains behind. Lupins are introduced. Apparently one farmer’s wife, wanting some colour in her surroundings, scattered seeds and the rest is history. I only saw them growing around the higher country but not the mountains. While they’re pretty, they have a tendency to grow in the river beds where they disrupt the flow. But I doubt they can be eradicated.
NZ is full of so many pest species – but some are surprising. We quite often came across tracts of dead pine trees, which seemed odd. Pine trees are grown as wind breaks in many places in NZ because their own (decimated) species are so slow growing. The wilding pines are invasive and the government spends millions each year trying to get rid of them.
Lake Tepako is home to the Church of the Good Shepherd, a small stone building on a promontory of the lake. When we were here in 2019, despite the fact that it was approaching winter, the area around the church was packed with coaches, camper vans, and people. I didn’t even try to get into the church, or take a photo of the statue of the sheep dog. In the years since then parking has been better organised and people wanting to visit the church go along a walkway over a creek. Even so, the church is no longer open. Some visitors did not respect that it is a sacred place and did things like sit on the altar. This website will tell you all about the church. Several of our group went off to look at the church and the statue.
And just for a bit of ‘did you know?’ several of those peaks beyond Lake Tepako in the Two Thumb Range region of the South Island are named in commemoration of the Battle of the River Plate. These are Achilles (2,544 m), Exeter (2,327 m), Ajax (2,319 m) and Graf Spee (2,267 m). In WW2 an allied task force trapped the German heavy cruiser Graf Spee in Uruguay’s River Plate, where she was scuttled. It was the first time a NZ navy ship (Achilles) flew its own NZ flag.
From there we drove through the typical rolling farmlands of New Zealand to Geraldine, a small farming town with coffee, food, and public toilets. The town specialises in cheese and dairy products and I availed myself of another of those calorie-free ice creams. It was delicious.
And then back to Christchurch for our final group dinner and fond farewells. It had been a wonderful trip, filled with beautiful scenery and natural beauty, all mixed in with a great bunch of people – and a terrific coach captain.
Then we had to get home. And that, of course, is the final story.
By the way, if you’ve happened upon this page by accident and you’d like to read more about the tour, go to the tour page where you’ll find the rest of our adventures.