Our last full day in New Zealand had arrived. Today we would be returning to Christchurch, which in 2012 was still struggling to recover from the 2011 earthquake that had devastated the city and killed nearly 200 people. There was still plenty of driving to do first though.
Waking up at Tasman Downs
What a lovely place to wake up in! We were greeted by the stunning blue waters of Lake Pukaki, with the dazzling snow capped peaks, including Aoraki, behind, with a delicate wispy layer of clouds in the middle.
Breakfast itself was tasty and hearty, but we were primarily drawn to the view. And also to the particularly odd solar powered waving Queen Elizabeth II that was sat, still in its box, on the middle of the table, next to a Father Christmas that appeared to have borrowed Her Majesty’s lippy!
A spot of relaxation
In Queenstown, we had already experienced the joys of relaxing in hot water, and we had located a large hot springs near Lake Tekapo, with great views over that Lake, which we decided we would stop at after we’d negotiated the gravel roads back from Tasman Downs to the main road.
Despite Mrs Dr T’s tendency to wilt as soon as exposed to direct sunlight, there was a good balance of shady areas, and the water was perfect. These springs are not hot tubs, but are substantial enough to be swimming pools, and it was a great way to relax after two weeks of travel. Lake Tekapo, whilst not quite the same vivid blue as Lake Pukaki, was nearly the colour or the pools!
The Inland Scenic Route
Just in case we thought we hadn’t done enough driving, we decided to extend our final afternoon’s driving by following the “Inland Scenic Route”, rather than the more direct route across the Canterbury Plains. However, it turns out (to our mind), that this is slightly overselling the alternative route. Whilst it was nearer the mountains, and there were a couple of dramatic river crossings (in particular that across the Rakaia Gorge, which was really spectacular), it wasn’t really that exciting. One particular “lowlight” was the fully 10 miles we travelled on a dead straight road, with unchanging scenery and no real traffic either. The lack of photos of the rest of the journey probably says something about the overall effect. New Zealand is rarely ugly (in our experience), and this area certainly isn’t ugly, but it really lacked the drama of the areas we’d been in previously.
We don’t have any pictures at all of downtown Christchurch – we drove through the area after we’d dropped our things at the “At the Beach” B&B in the suburban (and sea-front) area of North New Brighton. An internet search suggests that this may no longer be in operation. Having dropped our stuff off, we headed out for some food, and drove briefly into the downtown area. This still bore the scars of the earthquake – the area was empty of people, lots of things cordoned off, and not really anywhere that we thought we should either stop or take any photographs. Particularly poignant was to glimpse the ruins of the cathedral (near which my parents had sat a few months before the earthquake on a cruise stop), but the overall feeling in the City was one of acute sadness. We eventually found a Thai restaurant in the ‘burbs (again, no photos, and it’s over 8 years’ on, but I’m fairly sure it was this one), where we proceeded to have the best meal we’d had on the South Island. It reminded us some of the benefits of being back in a City area.
We headed back to the B&B for some rest. Our flights (Melbourne via Sydney) the next day weren’t until the afternoon, but we needed to sort out the hire car, as well as doing a final explore.