– Twizel, New Zealand to Auckland, New Zealand –

Well, there’s not a lot of good things in Twizel, as we discovered this morning. There weren’t any running trails, so we had to run along the road and by the grocery stores. Someone in a car kept shouting at us on the sidewalk as they drove by, and the hill that overlooks the town we thought we would jog up to turned out to have a trail made of boulders leading to the top.

So many sheep here

When we finished our run, we went back to our (admittedly cute) hotel room and had a shower and packed up for flying later in the afternoon. On our run, we spotted a bakery, so when we hit the road we drove into the center of the little town to get part of our breakfast at the bakery there. It turned out to be mostly a cake bakery that was for some reason open at 8am. They also sold toast… as though anyone in the world can’t make their own toast. People that can burn boiling water can make toast. It was strange, and we moved on, deciding that the yogurt and juice we’d already had would have to do.

From the observatory

From Twizel, we drove on to Tekapo, which is supposed to have a lovely view of the stars at night. The area has very low light pollution. Of course, it was day time when we were there, but that wasn’t a problem we could solve easily without taking another day in New Zealand.

In Tekapo, we stopped at the University of Canterbury Mt. John Observatory, which is a huge astronomical observatory at 3,376ft of elevation on the top of Mt. John. It cost a few dollars to drive up the road leading up to it. It had been reasonably warm at the bottom of the mountain, but by the time we made it to the top, it was cold and quite windy.

Such a pretty view, even with the overcast sky

We walked around the observatory, which has a wonderful view of the surrounding countryside, and ducked into the little cafe they have to look around. The cafe and gift shop were nothing spectacular, but the drive was worth it for the view. We could see the mountains nearby, and Lake Tekapo, our next stop, beneath us.

I eventually had to run back to the car, as I was freezing, but Mark stayed out a little longer for a few more pictures. By now everyone must know that he’s much tougher than I am where cold is concerned.

Observatory buildings

Back at the bottom of the mountain, we visited Lake Tekapo, which was absolutely covered in gorgeous lupins. This has really been the year of the lupin for us, with so many during our Atlantic Canada trip, too. Lake Tekapo is famous for them, and it certainly delivered. The day was overcast and a little misty, but the views were mostly clear, and the lake was lovely with the big mountains in the background.

We saw lots of women getting their photos taken while they squatted amongst the flowers, so Mark decided to take a page out of their book and get a photo with the lupins himself. I particularly like the little smile on his face. You guys can’t see him fluttering his eyelashes, but I certainly did.

Looking pretty in the lupins

The lake had really cute little orange flowers as well, though I couldn’t tell you what they were called. I’m impressed by the spring flowers in these colder climates we’ve been visiting. Our spring flowers are nice, but nothing so impressive as these. It’s like mother nature really likes to announce the arrival of spring in places where it is cold for much of the year.

Flowers and lake photographed, we continued into town and stopped at a few gift shops to look around. Mark and I already had our t-shirts, but we picked up a few things for my parents, for taking care of little Ripley, and our friend Ana, for getting our mail and watching our house.

Lake Tekapo

When that was done, we were already hungry, so we picked up some egg mayo sandwiches for later at a little deli, along with some ginger beer, french fries (chips, here) for me, and a slice of quiche for Mark, which we ate in the restaurant. Mark was disappointed in me for not getting any ketchup with my fries, but it costs money, and I don’t really need it like he does. He still complained a little while sneaking some of my fries.

Delicious chips and decent ginger beer

Really, after we finished in Tekapo, we basically made a beeline for Christchurch, since we are both a little anxious about arriving on time (read: early) for flights. We skipped the lower loop we thought we might take through Timaru and instead went on the more northern bit of the loop through Geraldine and on up to Christchurch from there. We didn’t take any photos between Tekapo and Christchurch, which is a little embarrassing for such experienced travelers.

We arrived at the airport exactly when we had promised to return our car, with a full tank of gas as directed, and dumped our last rental car. I think Mark is slightly relieved to be done driving on the wrong side of the road. We had planned to drop the car off a little too early, particularly given the fact that this was a domestic flight and security was very easy.

Waiting to fly to Auckland

We waited at the airport for almost two hours before our flight, then made the trip to Auckland for the evening. It was a little confusing when we arrived, trying to figure out where we needed to go to get across to our hotel, but it was within walking distance, and the weather was fine, so we walked. We will have to decide if the weather will hold for that early tomorrow morning, as well, or if we need to book a shuttle. Time will tell.

With our stuff dropped off, we walked over to a nearby shopping strip mall and had dinner at The Ugly Dumpling, where we had, of course, dumplings. They were good, but we’ve had better. Standard fare, I guess you might say. After dinner we ducked into the grocery store next door for a small dessert and to see if they had any breakfast we wanted before heading back here to our hotel for the night.

Is it ok to call your dumplings ugly?

Early tomorrow morning we fly back to Sydney and then across the ocean to DFW once again. I think it will be an excruciatingly long day, especially when you factor in the layover. We still have to figure out if we need a shuttle and to repack our bags for the longer flight. It’ll be a late night and an early morning.

 – Trip Total :  12, 283 miles (by car) and 460 miles (by plane) –

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