15 April 2014

Choosing the long and scenic drive to Queenstown

Last winter Mark went to Queenstown for a few days for work. He came back singing the praises of the stunning scenery saying 'we simply HAVE to go'. So an idea was hatched, to combine our 10-year wedding anniversary and joint birthdays with a few days away. Later in the planning, we also decided to invite Nana & Poppa to share in the adventure with us as a 40th wedding anniversary gift from us, allowing them to relive memories from the time they spent in Queenstown on their honeymoon all those years ago.

And so it came to be. 

These days trips that involve leaving from Wellington Airport encompass an MNM's tradition - always a stop at Donut King for the boys while we patiently await our flight.

We'd decided to fly into Christchurch so we could take the scenic route through the middle of the country past the beautiful lakes of Tekapo, Pukaki and Dunstan and through the Mackenzie Country.

Our first pit stop was in the quaint town of Geraldine at the local Farm Shop where ice creams and a dairy-free Nice Block hit the sweet spot.

As we turned further inland, the landscape became more intriguing, with sights like these tantalising us over distant hills.

And after another hour of driving, we came upon Lake Tekapo in all its glory. Noah couldn't get down to the waters edge quick enough, throwing his arms in the air like a scene from the Sound of Music - 'The Hills are Alive'.

We weren't at the lake at quite the right time of day to see the full array of spectacular colours that Lake Tekapo is known for but the crystal clarity of the water was still stunning nonetheless.

And what is likely to be NZ's most photographed chapel - The Church of the Good Shepherd - continues to overlook the scene quietly, gracefully as it has done for decades.

By this stage it was getting on for 4pm, so we carried on inland to Lake Pukaki - the gateway to Aoraki, Mt Cook, which at 3,724 metres is NZ's tallest mountain. To be graced with a view of its peak on the far side of the lake was so fortuitous.

To have this spectacular apparition appear as guardian over the lake was more than we had dreamed of seeing on this day.

But time didn't permit us to dally too long, so after a few quick photos and oohs and ahs on we drove.

Into the depths of the Mackenzie country. Where poplars reach like fingers up to tickle the sky.

And where the hills are rolling and lovely beyond any singing of it.

 And as the sun sank slowly in the west, gathering speed with each passing minute, we marvelled.

Over high country passes with hills that looked like the back of an animal covered in fur. The hills casting shadows and sunlight at their leisure.

And when the sun finally slipped out of its golden cloak for the day, it left behind silvery reflections on the surface Lake Dunstan, near Cromwell.

But despite what we thought, the sun was not done for the day. Not by far.

A necessary stop for dinner in Cromwell entitling us to the most glorious display of 'hills on fire' I've ever seen.

We had thought that the drive down from Christchurch leaving just after midday would take about 5.5 hours but we somewhat underestimated this - meaning we didn't end up arriving into Queenstown till 8pm, which was long after dark. I always find arriving somewhere new at night somewhat disorientating. But it is worth it in the morning.

Waking up somewhere new after you've arrived in the dark is, I think, a bit like opening a long awaited gift on Christmas Day. It simply takes your breath away.

And our early morning relaxing and taking in the views was just the precursor to a day filled with adventure and adrenalin as only the adventure capital of the world could provide.

to be continued.....

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