On The Way To Mt. Cook
After going through a serious stack of brochures I picked up at Christchurch airport, I decided to start my road trip by checking out a few smaller things, mainly along the east coast of the South island before crossing inland for New Zealand's highest peak - Mt. Cook. With rental car at my disposal, it was time to bid farewell to Christchurch and begin the trip.
Rakaia - Salmon Capital of New Zealand
About an hour south of Christchurch is a small town of Rakaia known for its salmon industry and the longest bridge in New Zealand spanning 1.8 km/1.1 mi over Rakaia river. While it sounded impressive, the bridge itself was just a couple of meters above the ground and, with the river bed mostly dried up, it really was not as awesome as I thought it would be. On the other hand, the Salmon World did not disappoint. While I did not check out the exhibits (they even have a 4D movie theater), I did grab a salmon-cream cheese panini for lunch as well as some smoked salmon to pair up with some Byron Bay's cheese and crackers later.
RNZAF Museum At Ashburton
Just over half an hour south of Rakaia is a town of Ashburton, home to one of the Air Force training strips during World War II. The airport is still bustling with general aviation activity and there is a museum set up in couple of its hangars, which was where I was headed. While not free ($5) and not as impressive as the Wigram museum in Christchurch, it did have a nice collection featuring another Skyhawk and a Harrier, both well maintained with the potential of flying one day (all avionics have been removed). There were also a few funky agriculture spraying aircraft as well as DH 104 Devon which was designated as the spares aircraft by the RNZAF as soon as they received it so even though it is over 50 years old, it only has 17.5 hours on its Hobbs meter.
Not far from Mt. Cook - New Zealand's highest peak - Lake Tekapo makes for a nice overnight stop on the way from Christchurch to Queenstown. Leaving the Canterbury plains behind, I decided to head that way to check out the area before heading over to Mt. Cook. With my hostel located a short walk over the open lawn to the lake, the views were simply amazing. The lake by itself, surrounded by the mountains, was something, but with the clouds slowly rolling in and over the the mountains, pouring down the valleys, it was simply unreal. Unfortunately, there was just a bit too much of cloud cover so the lighting for the pictures was not the greatest. Oh well, the experience was worth it - visiting the Church of Good Shepherd, the Collie Memorial, and having a nice dinner of Byron's Bay cheese and crackers, Rakaia smoked salmon, all paired with local wine and chocolate. Off to Mt. Cook tomorrow!