Once we had the campervan settled it was onto the bikes for a ride around the lake to explore the area. It really is good the amount of money that has been spent on forming these tracks around the country as it allows those like us to feel safe from the large trucks that are thundering past on the roads whilst peddling at our leisure exploring.
The ride along the lake is really an easy ride with no need to use the electric capacity of the bikes as it follows the lake shore. There were so many photo chances along the way that it really was a stop go ride. We stopped at the brand new 4 Square store to purchase an ice cream a great reward on a hot sunny day.
I must have taken thousands of shots over the years of sunrise and sunset but missed the best shots of the sunset at Tekapo as it set through the trees and across the lake hopefully you get the idea though. There are some much better shots to come later in the blog from Lake Ohau.
When we first arrived in Tekapo we stopped near the church but hundreds of people snapping photos prevented us from getting closer. Sarah and I are always up early so we thought we would jump on the bikes and get down to the Tekapo church for some photos before the maddening crowds arrived when the church opens its doors at 9.00am. We got there before 8 we were really surprised to see a tour bus already there, turns out this would be an omen of things to come for later in the day.
When we were here 27 years ago this car park did not exist and the fence that surrounds the church has only recently been installed to protect the grounds out of hours. Tourists bring a lot of dollars to the country but are also putting a lot of pressure on the resources as well more about this as well soon.
The NZMCA camp at Tekapo (8065) had the most campers of any of the NZMCA parks we have stayed at with another camper telling me that over 60 vans had stopped there for the night however as the camp is large it did not seem crowded. Special mention must be made of the dump station that the NZMCA has helped pay for its a fantastic facility with double dumps and taps for potable water a major plus!
Leaving Tekapo it was onto Mt. Cook with the drive providing some spectacular scenery including the mountain poking its top over the clouds as we rounded Lake Pukaki. Having run a rental car company for a number of years I have been profoundly aware of the debate surrounding tourist drivers. As we departed Tekapo we got stuck behind a small queue of traffic caused by two vehicles following each other. The lead car was driving between 75 and 85 kmph but slowing to 60 kmph on the corners and with limited overtaking chances on what was a very good road it was extremely frustrating. It’s just this sort of driving that causes accidents.
We turned off State Highway 8 to start the 50km journey to Mt Cook only to get stuck behind another tourist in a small campervan weaving all over the road with speeds also very erratic. As we got closer it was obvious they where texting whilst driving a sharp blast from my horn and they pulled over to let us past. It was frightening to see how badly affected their driving was. The road however was beautiful with crystal clear water flowing down from the mountains under the one lane bridges and spectacular views of the mountains.
Arriving at Mt. Cook proper the quest began to find somewhere to park as yet again there where thousands of tourists here. In the town itself there are parks designated to motorhomes but these where either full or had cars parked in the spaces so we moved away from the town towards the parking area at Hooker Valley. The car park was absolutely packed with vehicles everywhere including us as we illegally parked (although with Sarah still in the van) to snap the photos above. The original plan was to stay at the DOC camp (8077) but the number of visitors put paid to that idea. The car park was so full that getting round one of the corners to exit involved Sarah getting out of the van to direct me as a really badly parked vehicle only allowed centimeters on either side.
We decided that we would drive down the other road to the Tasman Glacier view, this proved to be an inspired choice with plenty of parking it even had parks large enough for the camper without us taking two spots or jutting out into the road.
The walk to the glacier view according to the sign in the car park is 15 minutes what it doesn’t tell you is how steep it is. I could really feel it in the back of my calves as we went up step after step it was however well worth it with spectacular views once you got to the top. The glacier has now receded quite a way from the view making a good photo shot difficult however I am sure you get the idea.
After walking back down to the car park area we noticed the walkway to one of the DOC huts in the mountains given the number of avalanche areas shown on the map it felt like you would be taking your life into your own hands walking the route.
With the DOC camp too busy we decided to find somewhere else to spend the night so bidding farewell to the mountain we drove back towards Twizel.