The last overnight stop on my New Zealand tour was probably one of the most picturesque. Having driven back from Milford Sound to Queenstown (where we dropped tour host Craig off at the airport) we carried on for a further 2 hours until our arrival at Lake Ohau. Our hotel was in a very isolated spot on the shores of the lake, which was about 20km from the nearest main road. In the winter Ohau is a major ski resort, but with very little snow left on the slopes, there were no skiers in sight, and we practically had the place to ourselves. On a clear day we would have been able to see Mount Cook, but it was shrouded in cloud even though the weather where we were was clear. With the sun shining it really highlighted the turquoise colour of the lake's waters. Ohau is one of many glacier fed lakes in the region, and as such contains a lot of "glacial flour". This is basically sediment which is suspended in the water causing it to look such a vivid and beautiful colour.
Given that it was our final night on tour, our driver Luke arranged an activity to mark the occasion. On our lunch stop in Te Anau the previous day he informed us that we would need to find props for a bin bag fancy dress costume and fashion parade. Not having any sort of creative mind I needed the help of one of the girls to find a suitable idea. I bought a notebook of New Zealand dollar notes and transformed myself into a very lame looking cash cow, sticking bits of white bin bag on my black bin bags for spots. I still looked better than some of the others though. In the hotel bar we were subjected to the degrading fashion parade. We had to strut along a makeshift catwalk in front of a video camera and three random men who were tour guides for a different company. They would then judge us and award a prize to the winner. The lads had to go first and the standard was set really high by the Korean guys, and then one of the Austrians who lap danced on one of the judges. He was the eventual winner. I went on all fours to indicate my cow-ness and threw my remaining cash notes into the crowd in what was a world tour lowlight. I was very glad when it was over!
The next morning we had the usual early start and drove around to Mount Cook Village. The coach was getting blown all over the place as we rounded Lake Ohau, which in Maori translates as "windy lake". The wind persisted all the way to Mount Cook, where it started raining as well. We did a 45 minute walk to a viewpoint of Mount Cook, but obviously couldn't see a thing from it, and then visited a small visitor centre about the place. Everyone was very wet by this point. We then drove by the turquoise Lake Pukaki, which is the main hydro-electricity lake in New Zealand (they generate nearly all electricity through green means), and arrived at Lake Tekapo in time for lunch. The rain had ceased by now and the lake looked absolutely stunning as sunlight hit certain points on the water. We visited a famous and tiny church on the shores of the lake called the The Church of the Good Shepherd, where we were shouted at by the local guides for apparently blocking the aisle as we took photos out of the window. They rudely directed us into the pews, which was rather stupid since we wanted to get out by this point and everyone else was now in the way. The church had two weddings scheduled for later in the afternoon. It is a very popular destination despite its low capacity and has a ten year waiting list for any couple wanting to marry there.
After Lake Tekapo we then left the Southern Alps for the last time, journeying through the town of Geraldine and across the Canterbury Plains back into Christchurch. Last night was the final group meal and now I have a week free of groups ahead of my Australia tour which starts on the 29th. I am looking forward to a rest as this tour has been very tiring. I will write one last New Zealand blog later today, and then tomorrow at 6.35am its off to Sydney!