Day 7: Heading back to Christchurch

8 September, 2016

I woke up early to prepare snacks for the long drive back to Christchurch. I took a peek out of the window. The scene outside was simply enchanting – the snowfall had got heavier overnight and some had remained on the ground and on the roofs. The Remarkables, not far away, were totally covered in snow. August is the best time to experience snow here but you can expect it to continue falling throughout Spring in September and maybe early October.

We were reluctant to leave Queenstown for so many reasons – it was snowing, the hotel was fantastic (I’ll give it a 9/10), we hadn’t had the chance to visit the fjords down south and I hadn’t done a complete tour of the centre.

It was going to be a long drive to Christchurch. The unfavourable weather would add more time to the journey. Not only would we expect snow, but strong winds and heavy rain were also forecasted. We left the hotel at 9.30 am and had planned to reach Lake Tekapo (a halfway point) for lunch before 2 pm. As we turned out of the hotel driveway to join the main road, what I saw lying ahead was both captivating and intimidating. I prayed for a safe journey. The driver, though, was not the least perturbed. Sensing my anxiety, he kept assuring us that we would be fine and then he chuckled at my unfounded fear, “Worry-wart lah you!”

As we passed by the airport, the sight of a cherry blossom tree standing on snow-covered ground distracted me for a while. I grinned at the irony of it all. I was expecting snow and cherry blossoms in Japan early this year but got little of both and then when I least expected it, I got them here. God has a great sense of humour.

As we left the towns and gained elevation, the landscapes got more dramatic. It was snowing up on Lindis Pass. Be very careful on this highway. A car had overturned on the other lane. I suspected the driver might have driven too fast while turning a sharp bend.

Lindis Pass
The driver stopped for a stretch.

We reached Lake Tekapo just in time for lunch at Kohan. They stopped taking orders at 2 pm and we were lucky that they let us dine in even though we reached there just 2 minutes before they closed. It was snowing here too.

GPS calculated that we would take 4 hours plus to get to Christchurch, an hour longer that we had expected, because of the impending inclement weather and expected slower speed of driving. The wind was blowing strongly and then rain came pouring down after half an hour of leaving Tekapo.

Since we were only going to stay just for the night and leaving early for the morning flight back home, I had booked a motel, Arthur’s Court, near the airport. It was comfortable and convenient for sure but I wouldn’t stay here for more than a night. The pillows and robes had stains on them! 😦

All in all, we have had an amazing trip. Would I come back again? Definitely! NZ exceeded my expectations. But if I were to do this trip all over again, I would have done the following:

  1. Fly to Auckland and then take a flight to Queenstown. Or stay for a day in Auckland then fly to Queenstown.
  2. Stay for 4 nights in Queenstown.
  3. Drive to Lake Tekapo and stay for a night or two.
  4. Drive to Christchurch and stay for a night.
  5. Fly back home from Christchurch.