The Cloud Piercer
Twizel Travel Blog› entry 2 of 3 › view all entries
Today is January 14, the length of our travel and the twelve hour time difference make it look like we have skipped a day. But then again, when we go home again our 26 hour journey will appear to take only about half of that, leveling the equation again.
We had planned to get up at 7.45 am, but we are up and about at 7.15. The little jetlag that bothered us is completely gone and we are ready to start our New Zealand tour.
Breakfast in the Latimer Hotel is excellent.
We walk to the Budget Depot, which is only a couple of blocks away on Lichfield street. The sky is blue and the sun is doing its utmost to make this a beautiful day. Trudy and I brought flexible cases with wheels on them, so there’s no hard labour in getting our luggage to the depot for us. My dad on the other hand brought an old fashioned suitcase, flexible yes, but there are no wheels of any significance on it, so he has to carry it all the way, and tiny droplets appear on his forehead before we are halfway.
Although we have been to quite some countries with “lefty” traffic, I have never been driving myself and it takes some getting used to. At the first couple of turns I switch on the windscreen wipers instead of my turn signal. Not only is the steering wheel on the “wrong” side of the car, everything has been relocated. On top of all that the car makes a pinging sound, with the pinging going faster and slowing down along with the car. When I am about to reach for my cell phone to call Budget and ask for help I see the red warning light for the hand brake, placed exactly out of sight behind the steering wheel. Now I have found the warning light I have to find the lever to get the hand brake off. In this car the hand brake ísn’t a hand brake, it is a brake operated with a pedal, also cleverly hidden somewhere left from the normal break.
We have to make our way out of town now, but the map we own isn’t as detailed as Trudy (who is my loyal and skillful navigator) would like, so we have to call in help from the friendly kiwi’s twice. Once in a petrol station, where the boy and girl (who both appear to be in their early twenties) do the best they can, but it takes quite a while before I’m heading in the right direction out of town, because they don’t seem to be map reading types. We are heading for Darfield and when it takes too long (in our opinion) before we see any signs with the right names on them, we ask a man on the side of the road. Although he is deaf-mute, he manages to explain that we have to take a left on the next roundabout. We now are on the SH73 and this is where the Inland Scenic Route starts, which makes its way through a fantastic landscape of plains surrounded by mountains to Twizel.
On this journey we will not be having lunch in restaurants, because this takes too much time, instead we will be buying our bread and fillings in a supermarket we happen to cross, so we can eat when and where we like. When the clock ticks towards twelve I feel like having a cup of coffee to flush our baguettes down with and we pull over in Stavely, a place so small it can hardly be called a town. On the side of the road a café and shop in one draws our attention. Trudy says that she recognizes it from a Dutch travel show on tv called RTL Travel. The host of the show ate a Hokey Pokey ice cream here. I tell her that she’s probably wrong, there must be a million places looking like this in NZ. We walk in and then it hits me: This ís the place we saw on the telly. My urge for coffee makes place for a craving for ice cream.
On the way we stop a couple of times to look at the scenery and somewhere on the way there’s lunch as well, but the first planned stop is at Lake Tekapo.
I take a right when we pull off the parking lot, but we came from the left and Trudy tells me not to be stubborn and make a U-turn. Since I wrote that she is my loyal and skillful navigator I do as she says, to find out only a few minutes later that the road I was about to take was a shortcut.
While driving along the shores of lake Pukaki we stop a few times to gaze at the stunning views over the lake towards Aoraki, a.k.a. Mount Cook. The Maori named the mountain Aoraki, meaning Cloud Piercer, after an ancestral deity in Maori mythology. We have to take a right before reaching the town of Twizel, onto the 55 km long road to Aoraki/Mount Cook NP. We briefly park the car at Peter’s Lookout, where I stroll down the hill a bit, to take a picture with a slightly different perspective than the other tourists that are about. The closer we get to the park, the more desolate the road gets. Apart from a young couple with a broken down car asking for jumper cables and the occasional sheep, there’s not much to disturb the mighty mountains.
The town of Mount Cook isn’t much, the most important buildings are the Visitor’s Centre and the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre. At the Visitor’s Centre we inquire after a nice walk that should take more than a couple of hours. We are advised to take the Hooker Valley Track that should take about two hours and starts from the camp ground a few kilometers back from where we came. There are decent toilets on the campground and an opportunity to fill our water bottles and after using both thankfully we set off. There is a gusty wind on the journey out and when we get to the first of the swing bridges we have to firmly strap on our Tilley hats in order not to lose them on the second day of use.
It is 20.45 when we reach the car again and we are in Twizel no sooner than 21.30, just in time to check in, but the restaurant of the Mckenzie Country Inn is already closed. We can try the restaurant across the road and otherwise there should be some places in the town centre.
With our bellies filled at last we drive back to the hotel, through the tiny town that used to house only people that worked on the dams that were being built in the area. When the dams were finished, instead of becoming a ghost town, Twizel adapted and now serves as a well known base of operations for checking out Aoraki/Mount Cook NP. Our day ends late, no sooner than 1 am I close my eyes.