Original travel date was 26 December. Boxing Day in New Zealand.
I will admit I was intimidated when I first got behind the wheel of our 6.2-meter camper. It accelerated sluggishly and cut corners short when turning. Christchurch traffic is moderate but the combination of a bulky, unfamiliar vehicle and left-handed driving were difficult to manage.
Luckily our early start meant we arrived at the grocery store—our first destination—before the lot filled. I would never have found a spot and squeezed into it if I couldn’t have my pick of spots and occupy more than one. Thankfully the grocer’s neighboring lot was empty since most stores remained closed for boxing day.
Clair and I loaded up with a couple days worth of supplies: fresh green lip mussels for a pasta dinner, ingredients for a gourmet sandwich, and obviously ample beer and wine. We were immediately charmed by the local kiwis who three times saw our perplexed faces and offered to help.
Once outside of Christchurch driving became much easier. The single lane roads contain a steady trickle of cars. But the roads are not busy. The grass plains of Christchurch flowed into the purple mountains on the horizon. And by the time we arrived at Lake Tekapo the terrain felt like a scrubby, northern California lakeside camp.
Tekapo showed some of the strange quality of many of the area’s rivers and lakes: a foggy, chalky cyan blue color. We surmised that limestone must be carried from the mountains down the streams to produce this strange colored water. But after asking locals we received no good answer as to the color’s true origin.
That night, while other campers warmed hot dogs, potatoes, and corn on the cob, Clair and I sautéed our mussels over white wine. Our trip finally felt on track.