I recently visited the South Island of New Zealand again and experienced for the third time what must be one of New Zealand’s most spectacular driving routes – the road from Wanaka to Christchurch.
The little lake-side holiday town of Wanaka is one of my favourite places in New Zealand – both in winter for skiing and other snow activities, and in summer for hiking and rock climbing. Give me chilled-out Wanaka over the glitz of New Zealand’s so-called ‘adventure capital’ Queenstown any day.
This is a land of clear mountain water, snowy mountain ranges and, at the end of winter, many variations on the colour brown. Heading north-east from Wanaka the road follows the Clutha River, through the Lindis Pass and the cute little town of Omarama.
Not far after Omarama and off to the left is Clay Cliffs, where two million years of silt and gravel erosion has revealed a strange landscape of variegated and jagged cliffs. If you drive 10 kilometres down a dirt road you can walk around amongst the Clay Cliffs.
The next stop I generally make on this classic New Zealand drive is at the Kelland Station Lakes. Here clumps of deciduous trees surrounding the lakes display bright orange branches in spring and the reflections of trees and mountains are wonderful.
On a clear day the views from the head of Lake Pukaki are nothing short of heart-stoppingly beautiful. Boulders, still water, trees and mountains combine in the sunshine and all lead the eye unerringly to New Zealand’s tallest mountain – Aoraki Mt Cook.
There are more viewpoints as you travel along the shores of Pukaki, including of some of New Zealand’s extensive hydro-electric infrastructure. The canals beside the road reflect the mountains in a kind of surreal landscape that is half man-made, half nature.
Next stop is to take in the view of Lake Tekapo behind the Church of the Good Shepherd, which has become one of the iconic images of New Zealand; and for good reason.
As you descend into the province of Canterbury the grass gets greener and on the gentle plains there are sheep stations with lambs tottering in the fields.
Certainly enough to remind me how much I love New Zealand…
By Natasha von Geldern