After whitewater rafting the Rangitata River, James and I drove about 30 minutes to DOC‘s Orari Gorge campsite. Picture a campground. And then take away all of the standard trappings–playground, bathhouse, check-in office, site markings, power boxes, water pumps, a paved road, swimming pool, etc.
Talk about “basic” but beautiful, the Orari Gorge campsite sits at the foot of a lovely foothill at the end of a small back country road. We could see (and hear!) cows and sheep in the pastures around us, and the New Zealand songbirds also filled the air with nature sounds. We quickly set up our tent and headed out on the Orari Gorge trail.
We passed no one and the silence in forest was only broken by our own footfalls and the birdsong.
It got surprisingly cool overnight (down to around 2 or 3C). We managed fine, though toward dawn I could no longer feel my toes in spite of two thick pairs of socks. It only took a few minutes to pack up our things and we headed toward the small town of Geraldine for that post-camping essential, hot coffee, and to make a plan for the day.
We popped into Cafe Plums and had a great breakfast. My toes gradually warmed up.
Although the visitors center wasn’t yet open, we took a look at the visitor’s guides available for free and determined that, rather than pick a random hike to do, we’d drive the scenic Highway 79 inland to Lake Tekapo.
Lake Tekapo is a large lake in the Mackenzie Basin; we already had plans to visit with the kids a weekend in November, but we had seen photos and heard about its beauty and it seemed like a fun idea to pop over for a visit.
The drive itself, windy and beautiful, took us from the relatively flat plains up into pasturelands and farmlands as we got closer and closer to the mountains (Lake Tekapo is at an altitude of 2300 feet above sea level). We passed stunning fields of rapeseed, vivid yellow against the slate and white mountains and bright green pastures.
We spent about an hour and a half in this beautiful place, just soaking in the sunlight and scenery.
Too soon it was time to return back the way we came, stopping south of Geraldine at a local brewery and pub, where we had lunch and sampled their offerings.
We packed a lot in to a quick couple’s getaway: white water rafting, a hike, Tekapo, and a beer sampling at the number one rated restaurant in Geraldine!