Vern: We started our day in the little town of Twizel using the free WiFi at the community library. It was quite busy with young mothers who'd brought their toddlers in for the weekly story-time and who gave us suspicious looks for being there sans-children. The stories were great though; with single-thread plots and alliteration character names, my curious little mind was kept stimulated way after my iPhone battery died.
We finished up there and continued north on the motorway. Next up was a photo-stop at Lake Pukaki, a bewildering turquoise water lake in a mountain setting rather far inland. It's a very confusing sight and a rather marvellous natural phenomenon. The colour is due to sediment dubbed 'rock flour' which was created when the glacier carved out the lake's basin. The rocks frozen into the ice rubbed against the rocky earth and ground out fine particles which became suspended in the glacial melt water. This sediment makes the water milky and refracts the sunlight creating this remarkable colour.
A little while further, we came upon Lake Tekapo - the big sister - which is larger and an even more vivid turquoise (similar to the sea in Fiji). We walked along the stony shore and then up Mount John which is one of the many mountains poking out of the lake banks. The mountain is named after a guy who's FIRST name is John. Why, I wonder, would they depart from the norm when the guy's name is the most common English name?
The climb was tougher than expected and we battled very strong very cold winds. Up at the top sits the Mount John Observatory. This is the clearest sky in the world reads a sign - funny, because we'd heard this same phrase in both the Elqui Valley in Chile and in Argentina. So much for scientists! Don't these people make a living classifying things? Methinks the Astronomy community are a little caught up in the same game as the Tourism folks, always gunning for superlatives.
After our walk, we drove an hour onward and just after the little town of Pleasant Point, we turned into a skinny lane etched into rolling green farmlands and followed it until we found Simon and Kelly's farm. We'd met Simon and Kelly in Bolivia a few months back on the boat trip into the Amazon Basin, and Simon had told us excitedly then that on the way to the airport to start their 2 month South America trip, they'd signed the purchase agreement for a farm. They'd now been on the farm for only a handful of weeks and were just getting started with a whole new way of life. Both have kept their jobs and are farming cattle and sheep in addition.
On the way we noticed how Kiwis have really really REALLY embraced personalised plates. Every second radio commercial suggested these as a great gift, a way to tell that you are serious about your business, or a medium to show that you are a fun guy. We passed by a woman with "PEAKS" on her plates (hopefully a mountaineer but perhaps just proud of her chest) and a lonely man with "SCREW" printed out on the front and back of his sedan: keeping it classy!
We pulled in to their driveway and Rose, Simon's mum, invited us in, made us a cup of tea and offered us homemade chocolate cookies. Simon was out on the farm with his dad, Terry, installing new water-troughs. Through the large window looking out on their land we could make them out in the distance working with a digger. This window faced east and we could see the sea in the distance, and if you looked out the back of the house, you looked out at the mountain range from which Mount Cook protrudes. Quite a spot!
Rose lit up the fireplace (which warmed the large open-plan living area incredibly effectively) and put a pork roast in the oven. Simon and Terry came in from a long day out in the dirt and later Kelly came home from work. Wine and beer flowed freely and we sat down to a splendid feast. Terry instilled in Andrea an inconvenient fear of long drops (all the campsites in New Zealand have this type of toilet) when he told us how he sat down on the one on the farm that afternoon only to be bitten on the bottom by a rat! Then we traded quad-bike stories (the ATV seemingly having replaced the horse on a sheep/cattle farm): Andrea told of nearly riding us over a cliff in Santorini and Terry of finding his brother who'd been trapped under one for five hours.
We slept in their guest room on a very soft mattress (resting on milk crates). The following morning the family kept asking about its comfort with concerned looks. "It was amazing" we answered with beaming smiles. Compared to the firm seat-cushions / mattress jigsaw pieces in the campervan, the spongy guest room bed was like sleeping in clouds!