Day 49 Dunedin – Lake Tekapo
Today I’m set for a long 400km drive from Dunedin to Lake Tekapo in the central South Island with a few stops in-between. I set of quite early from the freedom camp just south of Dunedin. The cloud had set in from yesterday, dampening my hopes of seeing the Arora that has been sighted over the last few nights. The drive through Dunedin city was very foggy but starting to clear in a few places so I stopped off at a few little spots for some pictures.
The first main stop of the day was Moeraki. An hour north of Dunedin along SH1, its well known for its spherical boulders but first I head towards the town and then out to the Katiki point light house. Built in 1878, the lighthouse is a small one at only 8 meters tall but sitting on top of the hill it can been seen by the passing ship as they avoid the surrounding reefs. The main reason I’ve come here is because its home to a large population of New Zealand fur Seals and several Yellow eyed penguins.
I head down the short path to the end of the point, Hundreds of seals basking in the sun all over the beaches and the young pups playfully jumping and diving in and around the shallow waters. I search for the Penguins, I only saw the one at Nugget point from a distance so I really wanted to see a few more a little closer up, unfortunately I am a little early in the day for them. I could see their little foot prints in the sand where they had left earlier this morning but not much chance of them coming back anytime soon. The bad thing about the point is the amount of rabbits digging holes and destroying the point, they were everywhere, jumping and darting around the place and some just sleeping on the edge of the track not even worrying about the people passing.
Heading back to the van and driving just a few minutes up the road, I arrive at the Moeraki boulders. Large spherical boulders laying in the sand along the Koekohe beach. There’s around 50 boulders, measure up to 2 meters in diameter, most of them half submerged in the sand. Great for taking photos of. It was close to low tide when I arrive so most of the boulders were out of the water and were easily accessible, the fog had come back in and thick but this made for some good photos.
After taking a few shots, it was time to hit the road again after helping a couple of lady’s jump start their van after their battery went flat in the carpark. I carry on up SH1, pass Oamaru, until I get to Pukeuri where I turn on to SH83 and then head inland towards Mt Cook. The highway follows the Waitaki river up and I stop of at Waitaki power station to stretch the legs and have a look around. It’s one of many hydro power plants along the river and was built during the Depression of the 1930’s.
Along the road side are signs that Autumn is here with the trees along the river’s edge, changing colour from their summer greens to the golden yellows. A great sight to see over the calm waters of the river and the dry dusty brown hills behind. Now on SH8, I head through the small town of Twizel and reach the shores of Lake Pukaki. A long narrow lake that has amazing views of Mt Cook in the distance from the southern end. If you’re in a self-contained vehicle, then there are some of the best freedom camp sites that you will find, right on the lakes edge with the magnificent view.
I decided to stick to my plan and head to Lake Tekapo and try to get some sunset shots of the well-known Church of the Good Shepherd. Half way between the lakes I see a lady next to a car with her thumb out wanting a ride, so I pull over to see what was wrong, she had almost run out of fuel and decided to get a ride to the nearest petrol station as she knew she wasn’t going to make it. I didn’t have any spare fuel so she jumped in and we headed off to find some fuel. The first place we found was at Lake Tekapo. We grabbed some fuel and headed back to the car, topped it up and headed back to Tekapo for a spot of dinner before she carried on her way to Christchurch.
By now it was getting late and I still had to try and find a place to park up for the night, I went to a couple of places that the travel app I use said were freedom camps but once I got there both had been blocked off with no camping signs, I was pretty tied by this stage after the long day driving so I just found a bit of gravel on the side of a quiet road and spent the night there. This place is amazing at night, the skies are known as some of the darkest in the world, when you look up on a clear night like tonight, there are so many stars, only once before have I seen that many stars and that was when we were in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Pity I don’t know how to use my camera properly to take some good photos but this place it’s a must if you’re into a bit of star gazing. Tomorrow I head back to Mt Cook then off to the next city.