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Beckenham Trippers do fellowship on the road

It's 7a.m. on November 13th and cars are arriving in the car park of Beckenham Methodist Church. The air is full of greetings and laughter. Yes, the time has arrived for the Beckenham Trippers weekend trip to Lake Tekapo.

With all 35 Trippers present and the vehicles loaded, it's off to the breakfast stop. A picnic breakfast is part of the Trippers’ tradition. At Rakaia the gas cookers come out to make toast and pancakes.

Replete, the Trippers head off to an alpaca farm out of Geraldine. They learn about alpacas, the uses of their fleece, and breeding programmes. Morning tea is a chance to meet the alpaccas and feed them.

Once the travellers arrive at Lake Tekapo they settled into their backpackers accommodation. Then it was two days of sightseeing. Mt Cook looked inspiring without a cloud in sight. Some people tramped in the Hooker Valley, others did an organised trip across the lake to the foot of the Tasman Glacier with icebergs for company, and some hung out at the Hermitage pretending to be rich American tourists.

At night there was a trip to Mt John Observatory to gaze through telescopes at planets, stars, stars in the making. Imagining the distance the light they were viewing had travelled was a mind blowing experience.

Another round of sight seeing and bargain hunting followed the next day.

Beckenham Methodist Church Trippers began in 1996 when Graham and Lyn McHarg suggested that the congregation do a weekend coast-to-coast trip, and a total of 39 took part. They watched the sun rise from Sumner Beach and set from the beach at Hokitika. On the way across the main divide they had breakfast at Kowhai camping ground, morning tea at Arthurs Pass, and lunch at Moana before they arrived at their accommodation.

Since then they have visited Orokonui, Cromwell (twice), Mokihinui, Fairlie, Waimate, Punakaiki, (twice), Hokitika again, Moeraki, Ranfurly, and Lake Tekapo.

Graham says until 2003 the trips were held at Labour Day weekend. Since then they have changed to Canterbury Show weekend in November as it is easier to get accommodation. They leave on the Thursday the day before Show Day and return on Sunday.

"We have stayed at motels, private houses, and old nurses homes. We have taken over Hotel Ranfurly and entire backpackers. We have visted a farm of rare sheep breeds, Macraes gold mine, Oamaru stone quarry, Glow Worm Dell, and had a go at curling just to name a few of our activities. All members receive a bound personalised itinerary of our trip," Graham says.