Heading towards the Mackenzie Country and the southern lakes always
me a sense of excitement and a lift of the spirits. We are heading into
some of the most beautiful country in the world. Most of us are
in the time we can spend on holiday so it's a matter of choices from the
rich abundance of scenic delights that are available on this road.
Geraldine to Fairlie - 46km (29 miles)
The road winds gently between these two country towns and gives pleasant
views of undulating farm land and foothills. Eight kilometres (5 miles)
before you reach Fairlie you may want to stop at The Farm Barn on Mt
Michael, the highest point in the Fairlie Basin, to have a meal or a
look at the pure wool products on sale, and enjoy the panoramic view of
Fairlie area and the beckoning foothills.
Fairlie is a peaceful thriving country town - the gateway to the
Country - but it is much more than a gateway, it is a country town with
own identity and purpose. The Beautifying Association has been hard at
work beautifying the town centre with paving and plantings and
McLean Park where you could stop for a picnic under the beautiful trees.
To reach it turn left as you reach Fairlie and you will find it
the golf course.
For a coffee break or a meal you have a wide choice, ranging from health
foods and home made soup at The Sunflower Centre to delicious full meals
Rimuwhare. Old buildings have been put to new uses and The Old Library
Cafe offers cordon bleu meals and fine coffee. A short distance on your
way out of Fairlie you'll find The Woolshed, a historic building, where
can have a tea or coffee break or lunch, see a wide range of woollen
products, especially jerseys, and watch a sheep being shorn.
For information on the area go to the Resource Centre. If you ring in
advance they will arrange for you to be shown around the museum which
features agricultural machinery and the history of the Fairlie Flyer, a
vintage train which runs from nearby Pleasant Point.
Fairlie to Tekapo - 42kms (26 miles)
Easy travelling through Burke Pass takes you into the
Mackenzie Country. Burke is the official discoverer of the pass in 1855
and he is remembered for his love of trees. When settlements along the
foothills were being developed around the tree felling industry and
were burning off bush to develop pasture Burke was recommending the
planting of trees and pine plantations are grown over the pass.
Mackenzie was a shepherd from the Scottish Highlands who arrived in New
Zealand in the mid-1840s and explored the area that bears his name. He
applied for a licence to occupy the area, but had no funds to stock it.
He was caught sheep stealing, and moved away to Lyttelton where he was
later arrested and imprisoned. After escaping and being recaptured
times he was allowed his freedom on condition that he left New Zealand.
The country you enter on the far side of Burke Pass doesn't look like
farmland, but provided the rabbits are under control Merino sheep do
in this seemingly barren unpopulated land. Some six years ago I recall
earth looking totally bare without a blade of grass. Since the advent
the rabbit calicivirus the country has begun to look green in the spring
and the prospects for the farmers have greatly improved.
If you are travelling in summer lupins will be in bloom along the
It is well worth pausing at the rest area as you approach Lake Tekapo to
enjoy the view and take photographs.
View from the rest area above Lake Tekapo
Drive down the hill to the village of Tekapo where there are all
needed for the tourist - accommodation, restaurants and shops.
The lake extends north for nearly 20km (12.5 miles) from the controlled
outlet at the bridge. (This is an area of extensive hydro electric
development.) With trout fishing and skiing visitors are attracted to a
stay in Tekapo in both summer and winter. It is possible to arrange a
visit to the Tekapo power station or the observatory on Mount John.
There are a number of interesting walks outlined in the free pamphlet
out by the Lake Tekapo Promotion Association. This gives a clear map of
the area and details of walks ranging in length and difficulty from a
and level walk around the lake shore to the climb to Mt John Lookout
takes up to three hours.
If you don't have time to stay here do visit the Church of the Good
Shepherd built in memory of the pioneer runholders of the Mackenzie
The Mackenzie sheepdog
and the bronze sheepdog sculpted in memory of the sheepdogs of the
Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki - 47km (29 miles) - and Mount Cook -
On the road again you travel through tussocky country and if the skies
clear catch a glimpse of Mount Cook (New Zealand's highest mountain)
reaching Lake Pukaki where if you are lucky with the weather you will
a clear view of the snow-capped mountain at the end of the Lake.
If the view of the mountain is clear you will want to take the road to
right and travel along the western side of Lake Pukaki to Mount Cook
Village. The views as you travel and from the village area are
magnificent, but you may choose also to take a flight over the mountains
and land on the Tasman Glacier.
If the area is shrouded in cloud and you plan to travel back by the same
route you may well decide to visit Mount Cook on your return journey.
Part 2 of this article for more information about travelling from Lake Pukaki to Te Anau.