This was really the last day of our trip. Tomorrow we have a 6:20 am flight out of Christchurch that should have us in Brisbane by 7:30 am and heading home to Toowoomba just as soon as we can clear immigration and customs, retrieve our cars and get away.
We had scheduled our departure from Twizel for 8:00 intending to be back in Christchurch for the afternoon. Most were up early and some were keen enough to spur us into an early departure so that we had eaten breakfast, packed, and checked out by 7:40 am. We headed north and then east along the southern shore of Lake Pukaki and toward Lake Tekapo. Just before we reached Tekapo we saw a bunch of cyclists about to leave a military base and assumed they were military personnel on a training exercise.
In Tekapo we went first to look at the historic Good Shepherd Church by the lake. Although it was not especially cool there was a gale blowing and most of our party rugged up before stepping out to look at the church beside the lake. We discovered that it would be open from 9:30 am so we headed back into town for coffee and snacks.
As we sat in the cafe we watched the group of cyclists we had seen go by and then saw at least two more groups following them. At that stage we still didn’t know what they were about but later discovered that they were riding for the Central South Island Charity Bike Ride, a 3 day, 369 km fundraiser. We later passed several groups further along the road.
Before leaving town we paid another visit to the church which was open by then. The window behind the altar offers an amazing view across the lake to the mountains. No need for stained glass there.
From Tekapo we pressed on toward Tinwald where Majella had been advised to visit Annie’s Country Quilt Store. That was a hit with the women and those of us not so interested in such shops found a seat on the front porch where we waited.
A little way down the road in Ashburton we stopped for Majella to capture her ‘V’ for Victoria Street photo and then drove on toward Christchurch. Majella consulted her Lonely Planet Guide and selected Addington Coffee Co-op as a lunch destination. That was a good choice. We enjoyed lunches from an interesting menu in an establishment geared toward supporting fair trade enterprises and other worthwhile causes.
After lunch we dropped by our accommodation at the Airport Lodge Motel, where we had stayed on arrival, to check in. That was a brief stop on our way to the International Antarctic Centre which was our touristic target for the day. We arrived there in good time for the 3:30 pm feeding of penguins. The birds they have there are all disabled in some way and have been rescued because they could not survive in the wild. One of them is known to be about 23 years old, three times the normal life span, so the care they get must agree with them. All but 2 of the group then opted for the 4:00 pm ‘blizzard’ experience. The room is chilled to -8ºC and 40 km/hr winds add a chill factor that makes it feel close to -20ºC. We were surprised to find one young local who did not don the coat that was supplied because he was on a dare to do it in his singlet and shorts. We were cold enough in the heavy jackets.
A quick trip to the supermarket secured some hotdogs for dinner and supplies to wash those down. We had pooled most of our photographs by then and were able to watch slide shows of the various days as we shared dinner. Quick conversation about highlights of the trip revealed that everybody had one or more great memories to share. It was early to bed in preparation for our 4:00 am rising and 4:45 am departure for the airport.