December 2, 2006.
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
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
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
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.
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.