New Zealand Travel Log Day 4: Driving to CHC

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December 2, 2006.

Woke up on day 4 (or day 5 depending on how you count) to another beautiful but cool, sunny day. This was our day to drive from Queenstown to Christchurch, stopping to see Mount Cook along the way.

Before leaving the gorgeous suite in the Crowne Plaza hotel in Queenstown, we started the morning with a long walk up the mountain, then our usual bountiful buffet breakfast. Nancy spent a few minutes reading her book, although her attention strayed to the beautiful mountain scenery.

Driving the open road outside Queenstown was just one spectacular view after another.

20061202 NZ 011 driving.jpg (2999859 bytes) 20061202 NZ 012 scenery.jpg (2351505 bytes)

The national speed limit is 100km/hour, and everyone pretty much obeys it. There are no interstate highways as we know them in the USA, just 2-lane country roads, most of which have a small shoulder (1-2 feet only). But some of the mountain roads have no shoulder, and many of the bridges are single lane bridges.  It was common for us to wait patiently at the end of the one-lane bridge for the traffic from the other direction to pass first. Every bridge is marked with signs indicating which direction has the right-of-way.

Whenever the highway enters a village, the posted speed limit drops to 70, 60 or 50 -- and everyone immediately slows down to comply. New Zealand has automatic radar/photo stations at those speed change points, and they send you a ticket when you're caught speeding. By law, all rental car companies are required to charge your credit card for any speeding fines, so you'll pay even if you didn't know you were speeding.

When we finally got up to the Mount Cook National Park, we could see the country's highest mountain in the distance. It is 3,754 meters (12,316 feet).

20061202 NZ 031 Mount Cook.jpg (2674588 bytes)At a distance, Mount Cook was evident because it had its own weather system!  Looked like a halo hovering over its peak!

We drove up to the "famous" Hermitage hotel and looked around. Glad we didn't stay there. In fact, the visit to Mount Cook overall wasn't really worth the drive... Oh well.

20061202 NZ 030 sheep crossing road.jpg (3234200 bytes)We did stop for lunch on the roadside, however, and enjoyed our homemade sandwiches and the beautiful sunny scenery. Exceptionally funny was when a herd of sheep decided to cross the road, single file. So we stopped and waited for them...

We arrived in Christchurch, checked in to our hotel, drove over to the other hotel where Eric Vanryckeghem was staying, then the three of us went out for dinner at a pretty fancy restaurant (fancy means pricey). A fine ending to a long driving day.

20061202 NZ 004 Nancy reads in living room.jpg (2314519 bytes)
20061202 NZ 007 Living room suite.jpg (2463098 bytes)
20061202 NZ 008 Nancy on porch.jpg (2724586 bytes)
20061202 NZ 010 Ted and Nancy on porch.jpg (2595993 bytes)
20061202 NZ 036 Mount Cook (v).jpg (2447361 bytes)
20061202 NZ 033 roadside lunch.jpg (4591101 bytes)
20061202 NZ 037 Eric, Nancy, Ted dinner.jpg (2622190 bytes)

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