Thursday, 8 September 2011

NZ travelogue: Day One

We had expected to leave Christchurch at nine o'clock in the morning and put in a leisurely seven hours of driving before arriving at Twizel before the day grew dark. But as it turned out, we woke up a bit later than expected. Must have been the four-hour time difference between Penang and Christchurch.

We only left the car rental company at about eleven in the morning. So two hours had passed by in a flash without us realising it. First things first: we checked the car to make sure that it's licence had not expired. Two years ago, I was a little nervous with our hired car in Perth because there wasn't a new road tax disc on the windscreen. Not that it hadn't been renewed; the lady at the rental company at the Perth airport told us that they hadn't received the new disc yet but assured us that it was completely all right.

Nevertheless in Christchurch, I had to make sure that the disc was on display prominently. Wouldn't want any policeman to stop us along the way, right? Of course, we also had to familiarise ourselves with the car's controls. A bit disappointed though that it did not feature a cruise control button. That would have been useful. And finally, getting my Garmin GPS unit to work. Thankfully, the New Zealand maps were freely available on the Internet and quite up to date.

So having gotten ourselves prepared, we finally set off towards Twizel. Our route took us through the Canterbury plains and after passing by Ashburton and the Rangitata river, we stopped briefly at Geraldine to walk down the town centre. Lunch was a very simple rush affair at Fairlie because we were a bit concerned about having lost so much time in Christchurch and Geraldine.

We would need to speed up a bit if we wanted to arrive at Twizel before dark. But our journey also took us through Lake Tekapo. Although it was already around 4.30pm, we had to make the slight detour from the highway to the lake. No way, I told my wife, that we should miss out on the Church of the Good Shepherd. It was supposed to be the iconic tourist spot in this part of the country.

Arriving at the church beside the lake, we weren't surprised that we weren't alone. There was still a good number of visitors milling around but soon a bus arrived with a full load of Japanese tourists which added to the difficulty of taking pictures without them getting in the way. I noticed the statue of the shepherd dog in the distance and decided to give it a miss. Seen enough photos of it. Nothing special about it and besides, why jostle with those other gaping people?

So we decided to go down to the beach instead and take in the mesmerising scenery. It was so much more worthwhile and breath-taking. Aoraki Mount Cook stood majestically in the far distance.

By the time we arrived at Twizel, it was almost dark. But luckily, the GPS did lead us to the Pinegrove Cottage along the North West Arch. Here, we would be staying for the night.

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