Our goal for today was to drive from Dunedin to visit the Aoraki Mount Cook park and overnight at Twizel. That was going to require a considerable amount of driving and some luck with the weather. Forecasts had been variable but it seemed that it could be expected to become overcast through the day and rain sometime during the night. Arriving early would be our best chance of getting a clear view of the mountain.
We were on the road at 8:00 am and arrived at Oamaru around 9:30 am. Majella and I had visited there on our previous trip and recalled the Whisky Distillery where we had lunch that time. We set a course for Harbour Street in the historic district, intending to try that cafe as our first option. There was much enthusiasm about the old buildings we saw on the way into town and the area around Harbour Street. The cafe was not as we remembered it and was more a gift shop with coffee as an option. Whisky tasting did not begin until 10:30 am so we were too early for that.
After some looking around in that store we set off up the street to see what else was on offer. Majella bought a small limestone carving from a carver up the street and we had our morning coffee in the Lazy Cat Pottery further along the street. From there we wandered up and around the block where Majella discovered the Textile Emporium and bought a pattern for a knitted optical illusion. We’ll all be interested to see how that turns out.
From Oamaru we headed west and then north toward our destination. We’d taken more time than we expected in Oamaru and had some further delay locating a service station on the way out. The makings for our picnic lunch had been bought before we left Dunedin so we would be able to stop at any suitable location along the route. An hour or so along the road there was some thought of eating but we passed by more than one spot overlooking a lake that might have been suitable. We had one near mishap along the way when a large piece of farm machinery coming toward us insisted on having more than its fair share of the road. Skilful driving by Russell averted disaster.
As we approached the junction with the northbound road south of Twizel we were able to see snowcapped mountains in the distance. By the time we were approaching Twizel, the hungrier among us were ready to settle for any patch on the side of the road. We had already caught glimpses of Aoraki and would have preferred a picnic spot with a view of it. We did turn off just south of Twizel to investigate a lakeshore but found a grave and no picnic area. We passed Twizel and continued north. Soon after we reached Lake Pukaki we found Peter’s Lookout. There was no seating or shade but it did have a great view of Aoraki and an ice cream van. We ate lunch and enjoyed the view. Several members of the group supplemented lunch with a thick shake or other offering from the van and somebody pressed a fellow tourist, from the Netherlands, into taking a group photo with Aoraki in the background. We had clear views of the summit of the mountain though there were already wisps of cloud threatening to obscure it.
After lunch we drove on to the Aoraki Mount Cook park where we visited the information centre and had coffee and treats in the Old Mountaineers Cafe before driving back along the road and out to the Tasman Glacier. Five of us walked up the hill to the top of the terminal moraine for a view across the lake to the glacier. The others waited below with the van.
When we returned to the van we headed back down the road to Twizel. It was already approaching 5:00 pm and time we were checked into our accommodation. We paused a couple of times for photographs of the views up and down the lake but otherwise went as quickly as we could to Twizel and sorted out our accommodation.
We treated ourselves to dinner at Poppies Cafe, just across the road from the Mackenzie Country Hotel where we stayed. The food was interesting, tasty and well presented. Majella and I shared a venison pizza with venison salami and blue cheese, an unusual but tasty combination. Service was attentive and Majella took the opportunity to practise some French with our waiter who was from Normandy. The weather held out for us to the last. It did become windy but no rain had fallen by the time we headed back across the road to bed.