After a good night's sleep in the immovable Zed, I drove to Twizel on Wednesday 18th. The journey itself was quite stunning: I've reached the mountains now, the real mountains, and it's quite breathtaking, these peaks glinting in the sun with their snowy summits and savage slopes. The first real sight on the way was Lake Tekapo, which suddenly appeared as I crested a hill, spread out in front of me. I was agape. In front of me was a stunningly turquoise lake, complete with a backdrop of mountains: and when I say turquoise, I mean turquoise, as if someone had put colouring in the water. The colour is down to rock flour – tiny particles of rock suspended in the glacial melt water – and it is quite the strangest sight in the world. The little town of Tekapo sits innocently on the end of Lake Tekapo, complete with the sweet little Church of the Good Shepherd whose view from the altar takes some beating, and which I managed to photograph when the busload of Asian tourists had finally buggered off. What a gorgeous place.
After following the tourist route that runs alongside a similarly turquoise canal (a part of the area's dam system) I arrived at Lake Pukaki. Lake Pukaki is stunning: I'd arrived at the south end, from where you can easily see Mt Cook, the highest peak in New Zealand and Australia combined, towering over the skyline. Well, it was a little clouded when I was there, so I didn't actually see Mt Cook itself, but all the other peaks were visible, and with the almost fluorescent lake, it proved a beautiful spot for lunch (complete with copious Kiwi fruit, the most wondrous fruit that, now it's in season, only costs 95 cents per kilogram... which is a lot of Kiwi fruit). Lake Pukaki is at the end of the Tasman Glacier – Tekapo is also at the end of a glacier – which helps explain why there's so much rock flour in the water, but it also means the water is bloody cold. Apparently people swim here in the summer, but there's no accounting for the insane.
When I got to Twizel, a little town south of Lake Pukaki, I put my final film of article photos into the chemist, checked out the local DOC office, and booked into the lovely Ruataniwha motor camp, perched on the banks of another turquoise lake, Lake Ruataniwha. I downloaded my email, did my washing – ah, bliss! – and settled down to enjoy the beautiful sunshine and total lack of wind. I rounded off the day with a quick walk down to the shores of the lake just as the sun started to sink behind a set of rolling hills, picking out every little undulation on the hillsides. I was reminded of the mountains in the Pilbara, as Scott and I camped at their feet on the final day of our bushwalk, all those months ago.
And as I stood there, looking at the sun sinking slowly behind the hills, I thought of all the other sunsets I'd seen around Australia and New Zealand. The sun slipping down behind the dunes of Cleaverville Beach; the orange glow of the Perth skyline as the sun set behind Kings Park; Kata Tjuta coming alive with the dying beams of sunset; the barrier reef reflecting every ray at Cape Range; the deep red gorges of Karijini simulating sunset halfway through the afternoon; the humid and bloated sun dropping behind the wetlands of Kakadu; stripes and domes slowly fading as the moon rose over the Bungle Bungles; and now, the sun casting shadows through the pine forests overlooking turquoise Lake Ruataniwha. It's wonderful to kick back when the sun's setting and think of all the places where you've seen the same thing look so different. Therein lies the legacy of travel: memories.