Monday, October 26, 2009

Road Remarks – Lake Tekapo to Queenstown

View Tekapo to Queenstown in a larger map

257 kilometres sounds like a relatively short drive, but this leg is full of interesting stopping points and amazing scenery. If the leg from Christchurch were to lull us into a sense of complacency about the roads, this leg is the wake-up call.

The first stage to Twizel is straightforward – and I recommend a stop in Twizel if you need a break. We stopped in at Shawty’s Café there and had a great coffee, something that is rare in any Australian town of around 1000 people.

If you have kids you’ll be pleased to find the mall where Shawty’s is located – and by mall I mean a wide open space with foot traffic only and a great playground where the Junior Grendels got to burn off some excess energy.

Back on the road you continue south towards Omarama and you start to feel as if you really are leaving the farming country. Crossing into the mountain range south of Mount Melina you pass the turnoff to Wanaka and drive along Lake Dunstan to Cromwell – where we stopped for lunch. Another small town along the route, it was Cromwell where we first noticed the Thai thing.

New Zealand seems to love Thai food and every town we passed through seemed to have at the very least a Thai restaurant, and so it was in Cromwell where we sat in another mall eating Thai in another small town – and it was good.

The pace we took this leg was leisurely – as you might guess from the stops I have mentioned already. After Cromwell you enter the Kawarau Gorge where the more challenging driving begins – the traffic speed advisory signs are worth paying attention to!

For the whole trip in New Zealand I decided that it was better to pull over and allow others to pass rather than try and drive faster in order to accommodate the signed maximum speed limit. This was a whole lot easier – and on the South Island there was not much traffic in any case.

The Kawarau Gorge Rd becomes the Gibbston Highway and the road opens out a little to lush dairy and wine country – naturally we had to stop at a Winery/Cheesery in the Gibbston valley and sample the local produce. It was well worth the effort but I was surprised at times in New Zealand just how hard it was to find some types of cheese - sharp cheddars in particular.

From Gibbston it is a relatively smooth drive through to Queenstown where we spent four very enjoyable days alternating between snow and lake activities.

Road Remarks (Part Three) will cover Queenstown to Fox Glacier

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