Lake Tekapo, New Zealand
Day 13 – 21/9
Lake Tekapo to Hanmer Springs
It’s another fine day in Mackenzie Country as we hit the road at 8.00am this morning and head to Hanmer Springs. We have decided the take the longer drive instead of breaking the journey and this will now put us one day ahead of our schedule.
The countryside is less than inspiring as we leave Lake Tekapo but it soon picks up as we head over the Burke Pass down onto the Canterbury Plains where there are chocolate box portraits at every corner. I search to take the quintessential NZ photo with thousands of sheep in the paddock and snow capped mountains in the background but do you think I can find the two together……. NO!
We meander into the town of Geraldine and look for the museum touting the best display of motor vehicles in NZ, but it was closed. There is one thing I have noticed…..the Kiwi’s always have the best of something and to reinforce the point we are reminded of their exploits in the America’s cup on a daily basis. We drive past Mt Hut and the ski fields as we skirt around Christchurch. It starts to rain as we hit the north side of the South Island for the first time and pull into the first winery of our trip. It was called the Mud House and had rave reviews for its food and, so being lunch time this is why we stopped. We taste some very nice wines but when we ask for a table it seems they are fully booked (a vintage car rally had beat us to it)! We are recommended another winery down the road and have a delicious platter for two with a paired Riesling.
After lunch we turn inland from Highway 1 and head toward Hanmer Springs. There is more traffic on the road than usual and it is Saturday, perhaps we should have booked a motel? As we arrive in this pretty little alpine village, the place is packed (not full of tourists but full of Christchurch Kiwi’s). This is their weekend playground. There are queues waiting to get into the thermal pools and all the Motels have no vacancy signs posted. We find the Heritage Hotel which I had listed in my itinerary and luckily they still have two rooms left. We gladly take one of their hands and explore the quaint town centre searching for a restaurant to book for dinner. As the sun sets we sit outside of our room in the courtyard. It is a very pleasant 15 degrees as we have a glass of wine or two and discuss our plans for tomorrow.
Day 14 – 22/9
After rain overnight and a rather wet morning we ventured out for breakfast and noted steam rising through the beech forests, a phenomenon of the many thermal springs in the area. Today we have decided to head out to Amuri Resort, a local olive oil farm offering boutique accommodation, tours and an Italian lunch, accompanied by the best of the regions wines. We were one of two couples and struck an immediate report with the host and the other pair. On touring their plantation and sitting down to an antipasto lunch we shared many stories ranging from politics, careers and travel experiences. Both the host and our fellow travelers were amazed at what we had accomplished on our holiday so far and being the masters of “the road trip” we empathised with their lack of confidence and forward planning.
On returning to Hanmer Springs we noticed the town was a lot less congested as most of the Kiwi’s were heading back to the big smoke, so we took the opportunity to meander down to the thermal springs for a relaxing soak. We booked a private spa for NZ $30 giving us a half hour in our own pool, this also gave us access to all of the communal pools. While the smell of sulfur was evident it was nowhere as pungent as the hot pools we had visited in Rotarua some 35 years ago. We wondered how authentic this spa actually was. Note to myself …….check this on Google……. result……..authentic, apart from the fibreglass pools and yes the water is treated with chlorine for WH&S reasons.
While we enjoyed our relaxing soak, we both admitted it was no better than sitting in your own spa bath and wondered why so many people were compelled to sit in the communal spas with hundreds of people side by side. You could probably get the same experience by going to the Brunswick Public Pool in Fortitude Valley, Brisbane. However to give Hanmer Springs credit the complex was very well presented at about the same size as Wet and Wild on the Gold Coast but the water was warm not cold at approx 38 degrees (not good for a tropical climate, I expect).
At least we can say we have now been to what the South Islanders say are the best of NZs thermal springs.