One of the great things about living in New Zealand are the dark skies. With very little light pollution, the stars are bright in the night sky. And one of the best places to see them is at Lake Tekapo, which is part of the gold-rated Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. And that is where we decided on our first Kiwi vacation.
The weekend started out absolutely perfect — without a cloud in the sky and the 2-hour drive to Lake Tekapo went by fast. The fantastic scenery of the surrounding landscape helped.
Lake Tekapo is known for its colour — a brilliant blue due to “rock flour“.
The real show started once the sun went down. The stars above were absolutely brilliant. Even from within town they were unmistakable. Two of the prominent starry landmarks were the Small and Large Magellanic Clouds, easily visible in the southern sky.
But the main show-stopper was our own galaxy, the Milky Way. It was breathtaking as it rose above the eastern sky. Especially above the Church of the Good Shepherd, a local landmark.
One of the new things we encountered that night was a real Kiwi winter night. Temperatures had been relatively warm in Canterbury, but they were downright chilly in Tekapo. And the bach (vacation house) we stayed at had the usual wood-burning stove, which we fired up. It was quite nice to get a roaring fire going.
The next morning we explored the eastern shore of the lake.
Our next stop was Mt. John Observatory, which sits atop, surprise, surprise, Mt. John. Brilliant 360-degree views abounded.
That night I took part in one of the best activities I’ve ever experienced. I got the last spot on the 8:30pm tour of Mt. John Observatory. It was absolutely amazing — highly recommended. The astronomers who acted as our tour guides were very knowledgeable and infectiously enthusiastic about their work. The views were brilliant — both with and without the gigantic telescopes.
Our last morning in town, we headed for a short walk to Cowan’s Hill. It was a nice little walk with some views.