6 hours in the car would have been far too much had it not been for the variety of scenery along the way.
We left at 9am knowing the forecast for severe winds and rain. It had rained during the night but the morning was just grey. We headed out of Queenstown on the road to Cromwell, passing the Arrowtown turnoff and the road to the historic Cardrona pub, which we would have visited if we’d been on the ball. It was all somewhat familiar having been our route into town on Thursday, but in reverse the steep rugged hills were still impressive, and the dips into the valleys and the challenges of the ups kept us all alert. We had a good glimpse of the saved Christchurch house that had been relocated to this area and featured recently on Grand Designs.
Our focus was on the ‘best carrot cake in the world’ to be found at Tepako 3 hours away, so an English woman who sold me some trousers said. We came to the conclusion there are no New Zealanders working in the South Island whatsoever – everyone is from somewhere else and with accents to prove it. Nor any/many Maoris.
The wind became ever increasingly ferocious and Lake Pukaki had waves lashing the shores. With a backdrop of snow covered mountains popping in and out of clouds of all hues, the unusual bright turqoise colour of the Lake was exceptional. We thought it artificial but have since googled to see it is the result of glacial flour. There were salmon farms in this region and we realised that neither Salmon or Trout had been on many menus.
Lake Tepako was next, also a brilliant turquoise colour from glacial action, and equally turbulent. It was very windy. We later read that the winds were measured at 120 – 130kms/hr in the Canterbury/Marlborough regions.
We imagined we knew where the carrot cake was – on top of a hill, exposed to the elements – but wise to the weather we ventured further into the town and lunched in warmth. For future reference: Astro Cafe at Mt John’s Observatory; a glass-walled pavilion with 360 degrees views across the Mackenzie Basin; an $8 access fee to the car park and then a walk. Perhaps now on the tiny ‘regret’ list.
Change of driver: from Gary to Ron.
Fairlie and Geraldine’s Antiques & Collectibles didn’t have anything for Ron, and Ashburton, a big town, mostly closed for a country Saturday, was lean on icecreams.
A decision to head for Christchurch’s watery suburbs before checking in, and a request to see the Port, encouraged Deidre to take us to the depot for shipping containers. Ron was not amused… no water, no ships, just mountains of weathered containers. We moved on (with emotion) and found ourselves in the long Christchurch – Lyttleton tunnel which opened out with glimpses of water. We chose the Simeon Quay exit and momentarily had views of yachts but no easy access, and so we sped along (and back) a road that clung to hills housed with history on one side and drops to secluded pretty bays on the other. With feelings of defeat in some sections of the car, and tourist delight in others, we stopped at “Super” for a beer, a reimagined hotel with a bizarre menu, most of which we couldn’t pronounce and required a 25yr old vegan hipster on drugs to decipher.
We chose Southwark Apartments again but this time with one suite for our last night together, not two separate rooms as before. We didn’t get what we paid for; we’ll see how this pans out once the Manager returns to work! Nonetheless it made for a pleasant walk into the CBD and the recently rebuilt (2013) and opened (2018) Oxford Terrace on the Avon river – a new development of restaurants, offices and shops.
Most eating places had an off-putting bald headed, black coated, wired-up ‘bouncer’ at the entrance which persuaded us to go to one that didn’t. We randomly chose Botanic upstairs. Fantastic. Rated #2 eating adventure of our trip. (#1 remains Cotto Auckland, Day 2)
Confit duck leg with celeriac puree, vegetables, and cherry brandy sauce (June) Zucchini, pea, and shiitake mushroom risotto with walnuts and feta (Chris) and would you believe Fried chicken and buttermilk waffles with jus and egg and bacon (Ron, Gary)
The beginnings of the axe wrap began…