You are not permitted to download, save or email this image. Visit image gallery to purchase the image.
Purring through lonely Burkes Pass, past the retro Americana novelties, antiques and giftware delights of Three Creeks, the jagged snow-draped fangs of the mighty Southern Alps suddenly reveal their full glory at Dog Kennel Corner, commandeering the high-country horizon.
My first overnight stop is in Lake Tekapo, where it is obligatory to pay homage to the sheep dog statue and the sigh-inducing sweetness of the Church of the Good Shepherd.
The forest of selfie sticks was conspicuously absent. It felt like tripping through Mackenzie Country circa 1985. Tekapo was still sporting the aftermath of the previous weekend’s snowfall, caking Two Thumb Range in a deep and creamy paint job, while Mt John was fashionable flecked in a lighter coat of snow.
As the mercury plunged as fast as the dipping winter sun, I ventured across the road from my Tekapo abode, Peppers Bluewater Resort, to surrender to the unrivalled alpine bathing glory of Tekapo Springs.
Tekapo, a particularly soothing adults-only space, was perfect to watch the fleeting twilight give way to a canopy of inky-darkness in the wraparound alpine splendour.
If you’re up for a spot of star-gazing, Tekapo Springs’ guided tours have swung back into action.
Tekapo Springs’ stargazing manager Jack Randall says the company has been enjoying great numbers on the weekend night tours and is looking to ramp up its tour options. It’s one thing to gaze up at the glittering chandelier of constellations, but I’ve always found it better to be suitably navigated.
Dan’s knowledge and his engaging story-telling made for a compelling night.
The next day dawned crisp, clear and calm, so as the sun poked its head over Two Thumb Range, I pointed the car west on the Starlight Highway, passing the unrivalled radiance of Lake Pukaki, for a tootle around Twizel.
This plucky town of hydro dam creation is laced by canals that deftly serve as a super-sized mirror for the Ben Ohau range.
Just south of Twizel, High Country Salmon offers you the chance to feed alpine salmon, grab a coffee from the floating cafe and buy a fresh fish from the working salmon farm.
Another popular option is at the base of Lake Pukaki, where Mt Cook Alpine Salmon has set up a shop, stocking fresh fish, which are hand-fed and raised in the swift currents of the glacial waters of the Southern Alps.
It's impossible not to be uplifted and seduced by this superlative pocket of the Canterbury high country.
- Mike Yardley is a freelance travel writer.