June 29, 2008

Back to Christchurch

The Inland Scenic Route links Mt Cook and Tekapo with Christchurch. This route passes through some spectacular scenery, changing from impressive mountain ranges to vast farmland. Driving down the Tasman Valley past the southern end of Lake Pukaki, we drove through golden tussock land on the way to Lake Tekapo.

We made a stop at the privately owned Mt Cook Salmon Farm. Located on the Tekapo – Pukaki hydroelectric canal carrying pristine glacier water from the Mt Cook National Park catchment, it is the world’s highest salmon farm (677m above sea level). An estimated 120 tonnes of salmon are produced every year with almost half for export to Japan, Australia and US. Fresh salmon, whole, filleted or steaked, and smoked salmon were available for sale. We bought a huge salmon fillet to be cooked for dinner. It was nicely packed in ice for our five hours journey back to Christchurch.
Originally a rest stop enroute to Mt Cook and Otago, Lake Tekapo became a hydrotown in the late 1940s when the canals and dams of the Waitaki River were commissioned. This small township at the southern end of its namesake lake has unobstructed views across turquoise water, with hills and snow capped mountains as a backdrop. Little wonder it has become a popular stop for tourists’ buses. On the shores of Lake Tekapo is the Church of Good Shepherd, a stone and oak building built in 1935 as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie Country. While vested in Anglican property, congregations of the three main Christian churches worship in the church. The church has awe inspiring views of the lake and mountains through the altar window, and is a favourite for nuptials given its postcard perfect setting. Close by is the bronze statue of a sheepdog, erected in 1968 by the run-holders of the Mackenzie Country as a tribute to the hardy collie dogs ‘without the help of which the grazing of this mountain country would be impossible’.

The high country landscape changes abruptly to rolling hills of sheep rearing after Burke’s Pass, shortly after Lake Tekapo. Enroute were the towns of Timaru, Temuka and Ashburton. From here, the route to Christchurch is about as straight and flat as roads get in New Zealand. We caught sight of some camel-like animals in a farm by the road, and the owner happily brought us into the farm for an up-close and personal encounter with the alpacas.

We reached Christchurch in the evening for some last minute retail therapy. The next morning, we headed to the airport early to return our rental car before bidding goodbye to the South Island on our 8am flight to Auckland, onwards to KL.


Anonymous said...

the alpacas are so cute!

A Mom's Diary said...

SleeplessinKL, they are sooo cute. It was one of the highlight of out trip coz it was the first time we encountered alpacas. The other was witnessing how the farmer and his sheepdogs work their magic on the sheeps.