Last night we went stargazing. As Lake Tekapu reputedly has the second darkest skies in the southern hemisphere it’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s a place where people spend a lot of their time looking up at the heavens. So last night we went out to a small observatory just outside town where two very nice, but very nerdish, young men entertained us for a couple of hours by letting us handle their 12 inch instruments. Live long and prosper.
Today we ‘did’ Mt Cook/Aoraki – at 3,724 meters it’s the highest mountain in New Zealand and pretty spectacular from wherever you happen to be perched. We took the 50km road up along the side of Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook/Aoraki Village and, after a coffee and a slightly overdue Skype call to son Thomas in Canada, decided to trek up the Hooker Valley to the glacial lake at the foot of the mountain.
More spectacular views and even more pictures – I have a feeling that the slideshow in the Village Hall is going to run to a couple of evenings!
Footsore but more than a little smug at having overtaken loads of people half our age on the trail up and down the mountain in temperatures over 30 degrees, we climbed back on board our covered wagon and drove the 70 or so km to Omarama. Another hard day at the office!
Having decided to stay in Hamilton for a second night, the next day which happened also to be Australia Day, was spent exploring the Southern Grampians, a small but impressive range of sandstone mountains around forty miles to the north west of Hamilton which rise to something over a thousand metres – we decided that they looked a bit like ‘the Malverns on Steroids’!
A climb up The Pinnacle (2.7km, 285 metres of climb and 32 degrees Centigrade) gave us our exercise for the day.
Monday night was spent in Margaret River at the Margaret River Guest House – a pretty B&B within a five minute walk of the centre of this bustling and attractive little town. Converted a number of years from a small (and I do mean small) chapel and convent, its a comfortable little spot and they made us very welcome.
Next morning it was down to the beach down to Gnarabup beach just to the south of Prevelly for a quick dip. Despite it being the middle of the summer holidays the beaches we’ve been on have been pretty empty and of course they’re all well cared for. Heading down the coast we stopped off at Hamelin Bay which it turns out is a top spot for seeing stingrays – well apparently they’re Eagle Rays to be precise. I managed to get some better photos this time – but if only I’d had the polarising filter on the camera!
Turning east we made our way down to Pemberton which is noted for its Karri (a variation on the Eucalyptus) trees which can reach up to 70 metres. Here you see Perthy attempting to climb to the top of the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree – the fact that the public are actually allowed to climb this monster is amazing! We declined to follow Perthy’s lead!
Perthy is the newest member of the Ewbank entourage – very kindly given to John as his farewell gift from the children of the Dean Close Pre-Preparatory School (The Squirrels). Here he is checking the departures board at Terminal 5 before we jet off on our travels to Australia and New Zealand.