Wanaka to Lake Tekapo

Nov 18th, 2005, 01:45 PM
  #1  
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Wanaka to Lake Tekapo

This is undoubtably a beautiful drive on SH 8 passing the Lindis Pass and Twizel areas, etc. However, maps can only go so far. Are there marked or unmarked side roads or observation points along the way that are worth exploring assuming time is not an issue? Can you get a good look at Mt. Cook without going to the Village? Should we drive a few kilometers up SH 80 along Lake Pukaki to get a better view? We have decided to overnight in Tekapo instead of Mt. Cook Village on our way to Christchurch. I understand the stargazing is phenomenal at night! Any thoughts on this?
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Nov 18th, 2005, 07:31 PM
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Assuming time is not an issue, you can drive down the Waitaki from Omarama, to Otamatata. THis will take you past Lakes Avimore and Benmore, and their associated hydro dams. (If dams and power stations are not your thing this might not be of much interest)

As you approach Omarama from the south (after the Lindas Pass) look across the valley to the left. You will see the Clay Cliffs. THese have been eroded into spires, sort of like Bryce Canyon on a far smaller scale. If you think they look interesting you can drive to them. THe access road turns off left a few kms past Omarama.

The Waitaki Valley is the site of a huge power scheme, involving canals and power stations which are fed from lakes Ohau, Pukaki and Tekapo. The control centre is at Twizel, and you will pass some of the surge ponds and cross one of the canals just before Twizel. The Twizel control center controls most of the power stations in the South Island, including Manapouri, Waitaki, Ohau A & B, Benmore, Avimore, Pukaki, & Tekapo. It also controls the supply of power to the Cook Strait Cable which feeds the North Island.

You can drive along most of these canals. As you drive along the end of Lake Pukaki there is a road off to the left which goes to the Pukaki power station, and the Salmon farm. THis road follows the canal embankment all the way to Tekapo. It's an alternative route to following the main road, and just as good, possibly better, depends what you like.

Tekapo is certainly good for star gazing. One of NASA's 'All sky cameras" is located on Mt John. THis keeps track of space junk. Not very glamourous, but nessesary. There is an observatory on Mt John. Not sure if you can visit it, but worth enquiring about if you are interested.

You can see Mt Cook most anywhere between Twizel and Tekapo, but it depends on the weather, Quite ofetn it's covered in cloud, even though the rest of the area is clear.

Omarama is noted for Gliding. Steve Fossett tried for a gliding altitude record from here a year or so ago. Didn't make it, but I believe he has left a heap of gear, and intends comming back for another try. The air field is just past Omarama on the right.

This just scratches the surface of this fantastic area. Ask at the gas stations & cafes along the way for more specific local stuff. You may find your 'No time constraints' may just an illusion.

You can get very good strip maps from the AA for every area in NZ. These have detailed information on side roads, interesting history, all that sort of stuff. If you are in AAA you can get them free, otherwise you may have to pay. It's worth paying for them, there's a heap of stuff you would never otherwise hear about.

How long did you say you had in NZ?? THis is only one very small part, and already you are out of time. Have a great trip.

Cheers,
Barry.
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Nov 19th, 2005, 09:58 PM
  #3  
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Barry, once again you have surpassed yourself. Rather than go back to school for a degree in geography to interpret your suggestions, I have ordered a glove box road atlas from AA from their online bookstore! Thanks for the advice. Steve
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Nov 22nd, 2005, 10:43 AM
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Cheers, Steve, Have a great trip.

Barry.
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Nov 22nd, 2005, 06:25 PM
  #5  
 
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Steve: Overnighted in Lake Tekapo last Jan. on the drive between Christchurch and Queenstown. Decided on a homestay, and were glad we did--the Tekapo House, the home of Peter and Jenny Rayne, has stunning views of the lake, and Jenny's cooking was ab-fab. (You can find their place online, if interested.) We arrived in time to head down to the lake and rent a "tandem" kayak for an hour to explore the turquoise waters up-close--something we highly recommend. Only wish we had an extra day to spend in the area!
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