Lakes & Sheep - Central South Island

Well, after a nice long break from writing, I'm now snugged in back home in my apt in SF.  Since I'm not officially working at this point (more on those plans later!), I have no further excuse, so the blog must go on! 

I honestly was already forgetting exactly what came next after Milford Sound, but since I'm back home and have all my souvenirs beside me, I was able to dig up the Top Deck itinerary to help me out.  As I said in the last post, the next few days of our trip were heavy on the bus, but luckily we had some great scenery (as usual).  We first made a stop at a cute little lakeside/ski resort, with views across Lake Ohau (pronounced O-how) of the far-off Mt. Cook (the small snow-capped triangle in the distance, under clouds in the first shot).  It was really pretty, but a bit too chilly to get in the water by the time we arrived late evening, so we mostly had fun just hanging out with some drinks in the cozy lounge. 

The next morning, we finally got a cloud-free view of Mt. Cook, and then stopped at the gorgeous Lake Tekapo.  The shoreline was really rocky, and thus there were tons of those little man-made cairns.  There was also a teeny little church that basically had giant open windows overlooking the lake, rather than some stained glass (b/c this is gonna be prettier than any stained glass!):

After making my own contribution to a new cairn, we all took a moment to admire the monument to the almighty sheepdog.  Not any one in particular, just, sheepdogs in general.  Without which NZ wouldn't be where it is today I guess.  We would get to witness the coolness of a sheepdog momentarily, as our lunch stop was at an actual, working sheep farm.  It was the sweetest thing - the wife/mom of the farm made lunch for all of us - lamb, hamburgers, tons of salads & sides, and then pavlova for dessert.  This was FABULOUS - the national dessert of NZ (though apparently Australia tries to claim it too).  We then got to meet some of the ewes up close (gathered with little effort by the awesome border collie on-site), and we also got to see a lamb sheared & learn about the wool business.  Not too profitable these days, which is why this sweet family hosts tour groups for lunch about 3-4 times a week.  It really was a lovely setting, but all too soon we had to set off to our next destination!

Unfortunately, several of our group were stopping in Christchurch, and we ended up in town right around rush hour.  Now, as you may have heard, about 2 years ago Christchurch was utterly devastated by a series of really bad earthquakes.  The entire downtown is still completely roped off.  Like, every building that was at all tall besides one is gone, and no cars are allowed in an area around 6 square blocks - in the middle of town.  So sad, because Christchurch is apparently a super cool place.  All we saw was buildings slowly being repaired, or waiting to be torn down, along with lots of traffic.  Lots and lots of traffic.  They are building a temporary giant church out of basically paper rolls, but this is an example of what you see:

(The note next to the Band-Aid reads: "I'll Make it Better" - aww!  It took us forever to get everyone dropped off, and then get to our stop for the night - a little place called Hanmer Springs.  It boasted a really nice hot springs complex, which we barely arrived in time to check out, but MAN was it great to relax in some really nice hot pools after two days basically on a bus, even if we only got about a half hour there before it closed.

This is getting a bit long, and the next day was pretty exciting (whales and dolphins - oh my!), so I'll stop here.