From Methven, our first stop was Geraldine. This is a tiny little town in South Canterbury, which has a farmer's market air with a number of quaint little shops serving locally made produce. The museum is tiny, covers local history, and is probably not worth a special visit unless you're in the area.
The shops close by on the other hand are definitely worth a look. Bull Rush Chocolate does some wonderfully chunky rocky road, whilst we picked up a huge block of peppered cheddar at a cracking price from Curds & Whey Pantry.
Having stocked up on the essentials, we drove on to Peel Forest which has a number of trails of varying lengths for you to trek around, depending on how energetic you're feeling. We decided on a 15 minute Big Tree Walk, which took us into the forest and past some big trees and ended at...a big tree. More specifically, a totara.
After lunch, we set off again. What we soon found out about New Zealand is that no drive is ever dull. There is so much to see on either side of the road, that you're in a constant state of bewilderment as the South Island hits you in the face again and again with picturesque view after breathtaking vista. The landscapes look almost painted, as if a skillful matte painter has collaborated with the government to pull the wool over tourists' eyes.
We were aiming to end up by Lake Tekapo for the evening, and managed to find a holiday park right by the lakeside. En route, we stopped to see a statue of a collie dog which commemorates the importance of sheepdogs in developing Mackenzie County through grazing.
The campsite is also very close to Mount John, which we hiked to the following morning. Lake Tekapo is a stunning turquoise blue colour during the daytime, which is caused by the fine sediment in the water refracting the sunlight.
The track to the top of Mount John takes about an hour, and is an absolutely essential visit if you're going to Lake Tekapo. Ideally, you should go at night, as Mount John Observatory there has some of the best night views in the world due to an almost unparalleled lack of light pollution from the surroundings. It wasn't an option for us, but we weren't let down by the views with which I could easily fill this blog with tens of pages of wonderful scenes.
Another reason for making the climb up the mountain is to take a well-earned break at the Astro Cafe. They sell delicious brownies and cakes, which are so moist and doughy as to seem almost unbaked. Coupled with a wide selection of interesting teas (Japanese lemon recommended!), you could easily spend an hour here poring over the collections of astrophotography books scattered around the tables.
Driving on after our hike, we parked up for the night at Omarama Top 10 holiday park which, amongst other essential facilities, had a trampoline.
It's worth mentioning the tourism radio device that comes with Britz campervans. It has a built-in GPS and plugs into the cigarette lighter, and runs on a specific frequency. It has a pre-programmed tracklist of songs which can soon get repetitive after about 4 days of listening on the road. On top of this, if you are approaching a village, town, city or point of interest such as a waterfall, hike or trail as you drive, the radio pops in with a four note chime (bing-bing-Bing-BING!) and tells you about things you can visit, places to eat at, and recommended lodgings. It seems that the Top 10 Holiday Park chain has paid the tourism radio board a crazy amount of money, since despite the number of equally good (if not better) holiday and camp parks around, you can absolutely guarantee that the recommendation from the radio will be for Top 10 parks in the area. For anyone travelling in a campervan around NZ, Top 10 are like McDonalds: you know exactly what you're going to get, no matter which one you visit. They are clean, have fairly good kitchen facilities, and are more often than not far more expensive than alternative parks in the area. You pay through the nose for everything - laundry, wi-fi, etc. I'd only recommend them under three conditions: 1.) if you have young kids, since the parks have decent play areas; 2.) if there is no other alternative, or the alternative is missing facilities you think are essential; 3.) if the park is close to somewhere you want to visit in the town or city you're staying. Otherwise, if you have a self-contained van and are just renting a powered site for the night, you should probably ignore the radio and stay somewhere else.
We didn't have any plans for Omarama other than a place to park the van - it was a tiny hamlet which just happened to be where we ended up as the sun went down.