Leaving Akaroa, we journey southwards along east coast of the South Island.
We head back down past Christchurch for the small country town of Geraldine, famed, amongst other things, for its cheese production. We stop briefly in this very quiet town to pick up some cheese, ham and olives from the artisan cheese shop before heading off to our first Department of Conservation (DOC) campsite at Waika gorge, some 10kms outside of the town.
It is nice to be out in the wilds, parked up along a small river right by the gorge. There is no one else around so we are in complete isolation but still with the added convenience of barbecues and toilets! The DOC really is a marvellous institution making life really easy for tourists in New Zealand.
After a brilliant sunset we settle in for the night and the first thing we notice is that, apart from the sound of the river, it is completely silent. Secondly, there is no light pollution so the stars are so bright and we can once again see the Milky Way. We now feel we really are in New Zealand!
In the morning we ponder which way to go next – one of the major joys of being in a camper is that we can decide when we wake up where we want to go next. Looking at the map we decide on Lake Tekapo, a place we have visited before and is arguably one of the most spectacular lakes in New Zealand.
It is a long drive of 3-4 hours but we are in no rush and the scenery is breathtaking as we approach the snow capped peaks of the Southern Alps.
We plan to stay for a few nights, so on arrival we “freedom camp” at one of the spots by the lakeside. Brilliant blue skies greet us, but it is very, very windy! Our camping spot is right on the edge of town so we take a walk along the waters edge to the centre. Along the way we stop at the world famous Church of the Lonely Shepherd. Unfortunately we arrive at the same time as a bus load of Chinese tourists who make a pretty good job of destroying the peace and tranquility of the whole place !
Inside the church, behind the altar is a picture window with probably the best views of any church in the world – right out over the lake to the mountains beyond. Apparently it is one of ten most popular places to get married in the country.
Just as we are leaving we see a Chinese woman stealing a copy of a booklet which is for sale at $5 – the verger points out to her the error of her ways to her in no uncertain terms. Still, it wasn’t actually nailed down so she clearly thought it was hers for the taking! We were to meet up with the same group later in one of the shops. The shop assistant was shouting at one of them in Chinese. When asked by one of his colleagues what the problem was, he just said he was telling one of the Chinese shoppers to put back the stuff he had just shop-lifted!
Lake Tekapo has grown a lot since our last visit but it is still a great place to spend a few days and, judging by the number of new houses in town, an even better place to have a holiday home!