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SOUTH ISLAND NEW ZEALAND: LAKE TEKAPO
We drove from Christchurch to Lake Tekapo , a glacial Lake from the last Ice Age, the drive was about 3hours but we did stop a couple of times for comfort breaks.
THE TIN SHED:
We were driving by coach from Christchurch to Omerama and our first stop for was 'The Tin Shed' which was a huge tin roofed shed selling many wool and other NZ products but they also offered passing tourists free tea/coffee and biscuits to enjoy while looking around at the wool and possum fur items for sale. We found nipple warmers and willy warmers in possum fur but decided against the purchase mainly because we couldn't think who would appreciate this generous gift but they did cause us some amusement.
As we were driving the scenery changed from fields and sheep to hills and then quite steep climbs on roads with steep cliff like sides streaming with rain made waterfalls. Gradually the weather changed from heavy and wet rain to drizzle then fog and then as we went over the mountains someone turned the tap off, lifted the curtain of fog and turned on the sun. It was the most amazing change as it was an almost instant change to blue sky and sun from grey drizzle as we turned the corner to see Lake Tekapo in glorious sunshine and I have not seen many lakes with such a fantastic blue colour. The Maori called the area Takapo, meaning "To leave in haste at night" Tekapo is probably a corruption of the Maori Takapo.
The weather change was quite amazing and we were told that this is quite a normal occurrence as there are very stable fine weather patterns in the Tekapo area. Lake Tekapo has the second longest recorded sunshine hours in New Zealand and this, combined with the lowest average wind speed would make Lake Tekapo a very attractive place to live for me.
CHURCH OF THE GOOD SHEPHERD:
By the side of the Lake there was a really tiny church, the Church of the Good Shepherd on the shores of Lake Tekapo which is very popular with Japanese for weddings. Apparently it is very lucky for Japanese to get married somewhere overseas with a beautiful view and the church is located only metres from the teal blue waters of the lake and has been built with a huge window overlooking the lake behind the altar so that the tiny congregation had a magnificent view of Lake Tekapo while enjoying the service. Just in case you were inspired by this please note that Only ministers of religion can perform wedding services in the church.
While we were there a Japanese couple were having their wedding photos after the wedding ceremony. There were no guests, just the two of them, a white Rolls Royce, chauffeur and vicar quite bizarre really but we decided it was too weird and that we must have a photo too. It was a really beautiful setting but what a long way to come for a wedding with no family or guests.
SHEEP DOG STATUE:
A bronze memorial to working collie dogs was erected on the lakeside in 1968 and was commissioned by local sheep farmers in tribute to the work of collies on sheep farms in New Zealand and particularly this area. The first sheep farm homestead was built on shores of the lake in 1857 and when the lake is low the remains of the original homestead can still be seen.
MOUNT ST JOHN OBSERVATORY:
Just near to Lake Tekapo is Mount John Observatory on the summit of Mount John and because of this there are light restrictions to protect the sky around the observatory from unnecessary light pollution. If you are interested in the night sky then this feature page of photos taken at night in this area are really worth a look.
FLIGHT OVER MOUNT COOK:
Some of the people in our tour group took up the option of a flight over Mt Cook in a small plane. This was about the same price as our helicopter flight on to the Franz Joseph glacier and we had already decided that we would prefer to do that so we reluctantly did not join them. They came back very full of excitement and said the view was stunning so if you are in the area it is certainly worth thinking about on a nice clear day. It is possible to see Mt cook from just a little further down the road from the Lake Tekapo township and on a clear day it is a wonderful sight but we were hoping to get just a little closer but that was not to be.
We had about 30 minutes wandering around the lake and township before driving on to Lake Pukati and our view of Mount Cook. We had been under the impression that we were going to Mount Cook, not up the mountain but to the town but this as close as we got. My husband was not impressed and told the guide in no uncertain terms, so we will probably get a shoddy room at the next stop!
HYDRO ELECTRIC POWER:
Construction on Tekapo power station was begun in the 1930s but was delayed by the onset of World War II. The power station was finished by1951. The intake for the power station is located on the south-western shores of the lake. Fortunately for the beauty of the lake, the power station located part way down the Tekapo River. The lake level is now controlled by gates on the Tekapo River and is higher than before hence the old homestead only being seen at low water levels. The age old problem of the need for clean, cheap power balancing against the damage done to a place of natural beauty seems to have been solved to an extent here as it cannot be seen from the lake area at all.
We then drove on to Omerama and our hotel, the heritage Gateway Hotel. It is a very small township with a few hotel/motels but this one is quite pleasant. We have a decent sized room with a balcony and a bit of a mountain view. And best of all we have a bath.
It was happy hour in the bar about an hour after we arrived so just enough time to have a bath and then go and enjoy the discounted drinks, 25% off drinks but guess what, it didn't include wine but hey we enjoyed it any way. They put on a very good buffet with salads to start with then a carvery of lamb/beef/chicken with choices of vegetables and even some fish. The deserts were plentiful ( a choice of fruit salad, banoffee pie, ice cream, jelly, trifle, pavlova and others)and very tasty too and the whole lot was very good value as I think we paid $75 NZ for both of us for the meal and drinks .
This is a very beautiful part of New Zealand and the fact that Lake Tekapo has considerably more non-rainy sun shining days than other parts of south Island would encourage me to visit this area rather than some others. I'm not a great lover of cold, wet and damp weather and we had our fair share of pouring rain while we were in New Zealand and that was in summer! There is a reason why it has such a green lush countryside in New Zealand, like us they have a lot of rain.
If you fancy a remote but beautiful place to get married which only holds about 30 guests then this place is designed for you. It was a very sweet church with a stunning view but it is of course a long way from most other places in the world so could be an expensive trip to get there.
It was a beautiful place to visit but too remote and away from civilisation for me to want to live in the area. It was nice to visit on a beautiful sunny day like we did but would be less enchanting on a damp, grey and rainy day.
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Lake Tekapo is a highland lake and settlement at 710 meters in the heart of the Mackenzie District not far from Mount Cook.