Wednesday, December 9, 2015

8 Dec 15 – Day 9 (Lake Pukaki, Mt Cook and Lake Tekapo)

Had a box with the KFC bread roll and whipped potato leftover from yesterday dinner. Didn’t want to waste them and so finished them off before going to the hotel restaurant for breakfast. Today we had the morning free and easy while some group members went for the half-day optional tour doing the four-wheel drive to see the film sites of the LOTR films. Went out to the town center about 9:30am and visited the Anglican Church which we saw two days ago. Took photos of the exterior before strolling to the waterfront area to take some photos and enjoy the nice sea views. Then went on to check out the chocolate shop called Patagonia that was recommended by Cynthia. As I was still full from breakfast, only SWT bought the dark chocolate ice cream cone to try. This time she was smart to ask for the kid size cone and she offered me a bite. The ice cream was very rich with the dark chocolate and not too sweet.

Explored the town center, popping into random shops to browse. SWT saw a Pandora shop and went in to check the items out. Apparently she was searching for ear studs in the shape of silver ferns. Unfortunately, she has a pair of small ears hence cannot take ear studs that are too big. She looked around some more and saw a pendent in the shape of silver fern. It looked pretty but so was the price tag. She hesitated and told the staff that she would think about it and then we went out of the shop. We then tried to look for the Fergburger shop that Cynthia was supposed to be getting the burgers. Saw a shop called Mrs Ferg which was quite empty, followed by Fergbaker which had a few patrons, finally we saw Fergburger with a snaking queue on the outside. Peeped inside the shop and saw Cynthia. Squeezed passed the crowd to get in and asked Cynthia if she needed help. She told us to just get our food and helped inform the rest that their food is ready for collection if we see them. SWT took the bag of food and we moved off to the chocolate shop, Patagonia, to look for a table. Settled down and SWT went to order a cup of hot chocolate to share. Made ourselves comfortable, took photos of our food before digging in. As per what Cynthia promised, she asked the staff from Fergburger to cut the burger into halves. The burger was good, so was the calamari and the hot chocolate. It would have been even better if the food was piping hot. The meal was just nice for me but a bit too much for SWT.

Soon we saw people from our tour group coming to the same place with their food. As there were not enough tables to go around, we shared our table with two older couples. They were really big eaters, instead of sharing the burgers, they ordered one each and on top of that, they went on to order a drink each and after eating, two of them ate the normal ice cream cone each. Since we were done with our food and we had rested enough, excused ourselves from the table and went to walk around the town for a bit. SWT said she would like to go back to the Pandora shop to buy the pendent, so we quickly looked for the shop based on our memory of its location. Managed to find it and SWT made her purchase. I found out that she likes to buy pendants and earrings. She was happy with her purchase which cost her NZ$45 and then we went over to Crowne Plaza where we were to meet up with the rest to board the coach. Since we were early, made use of the toilet facility in the hotel before crossing over to the waterfront to take some photos. Soon all the members were there and we boarded the coach to start our journey. On the way, we made a stop back at the Jones Fruit Stall Suncrest Orchard in Cromwell for the members who had order fruits to collect their orders. Since I didn’t order anything, I just took photos of the flowers around and bought another packet of almond nuts for little big sis.

After a two-hours journey, we reached Lake Pukaki visitor center where there was a Mount Cook Alpine Salmon Shop for visitors to purchase fresh salmon sashimi to eat. Bought a box to share with SWT and we looked for a table outside to eat. The salmon sashimi slices were thick and fresh. We enjoyed them while admiring the nice view of the lake as well as the Mount Cook from afar. We spent about 30-35 minutes there eating and taking photos of the lake, Mount Cook and the surroundings. We had a great time there. The drive told us earlier on that the catch from freshwater trout fishing cannot be sold, they had to be given away. And that freshwater trout cannot be farmed commercially. We then boarded the coach again to continue the journey to the Lake Tekapo where we would spend the night. It didn’t take long to reach the lake and the driver told us that near the Church of the Good Shepherd was a well-known bronze statue of a NZ Collie sheepdog. The statue was commissioned by Mackenzie Country residents in recognition of the indispensable role of the sheepdog in their livelihoods. The sculptor was Innes Elliott of Kaikoura. The model was a dog called Haig, belonging to a neighbor. It took about 15 months to finish. So after we alighted, SWT and I walked quickly to take a quick snap of the Church of the Good Shepherd before going over to the direction given by the driver to check out the statue. Took a shot of it before walking back to the church to take more photos of the surrounding as well as the lake. It was a clear blue sky and so the photos turned out really well. Peeped into the church because we were not allowed inside. The interior was small but still functional.

We spent about 15 minutes there before checking into our hotel called the Peppers Blue Water Resort. We were told that Lake Tekapo is part of a UNESCO Dark Sky Reserve because it is known for its clear nights and lack of light pollution. Lights from the nearby buildings and structures were purposely dimmed and shine downwards so that it is conducive for people to do stargazing. Lake Tekapo is also known to be a good spot to view the Southern Lights. Unfortunately, December was not the right month to do that. Cynthia told the group that we could walk out to the lake which was just across the road to do stargazing in the deep of the night if we were up to it. Secretly, I was hoping that I could stay awake long enough and that I would be able to persuade SWT to go out with me in the middle of the night to do that. Unpacked a little and we were out to join the rest to go to the restaurant further down the road for buffet dinner.

After we were done, SWT and I went for a stroll near the lake. There was a bridge across the river linking the town to the opposite land where the Church of the Good Shepherd stands. I was hoping to use that bridge to get over there to take more photos of the church or at least stand on the bridge to take photos of the church. Unfortunately, the bridge was out of bound so could only take photos of the church from far. Took some photos of the surroundings with the nice effect of the sunset. Then we slowly made our way back to the hotel. Cynthia told us that there are some alpacas, rabbits and so on in the hotel near the area where we were staying. So SWT and I walked over to search for them. It was already close to 9pm so we didn’t get to see any. Guessed they were asleep for the night.

By the time we got back to the room, it was already close to 10pm. I was tired and gave up the idea of stargazing. SWT was trying to drain the battery of her mobile phone so was still awake when I slept. Then in the middle of the night, I was woken up by noise from SWT who was trying to plug her mobile phone for charging. She told me that there were many stars in the sky and persuaded me to wear a jacket and joined her to go out to the balcony to take photos. Still half asleep but I was able to register what she was saying. So quickly put on my jacket, grabbed my Sony Nex-3 and tried to take some photos. The auto-mode gave me total blackness on the screen so I tried setting it to night mode and then used the railing to support the camera after pressing the shutter. It took a really long time to process the photo because of the really slow shutter speed. Managed to see some specks of white on the screen. Felt happy and then quickly ran back into the room because it was actually quite cold outside. Took off the jacket, kept the camera and went back to bed.

Thoughts: The food from Fergburger and hot chocolate from Patagonia were really delicious. They would have tasted better if they were hot enough. Still got to be grateful to have someone to help us get lunch without us having to crack our heads over what to eat. Saw two more beautiful lakes today and felt really, really happy that I was able to visit NZ to see all these breathtaking wonders of nature. NZ has always been one of the countries that I want to visit in my lifetime. I hope that I will be able to visit NZ again soon on my own so that I can spend more time per place to explore more. The starry night I saw outside the balcony of my hotel room was really indescribable. Photos simply cannot do justice to the wonderful sight. Like the song by Rihanna, the stars were just like “Diamonds in the sky”.

No comments: