Leaving Queenstown early the next day we headed to Lake Tekapo.
Our first stop of the day was in Cromwell to grab a picnic lunch and some tasty treats to have for dinner. We opted to walk through to the nearby supermarket unlike our coach-mates who opted for the nearby bakeries and cafes. We found it usually worked out cheaper buying fresh foods than convenience foods, although that’s true of most countries.
Cromwell is a town we’d driven past and through on a number of occasions. It is a small town in central Otago and sits on the highway linking Wanaka and Queenstown as well as on the highway that passes south past the Clyde Dam. It is famed for its stone fruit, which we can highly recommend trying as it’s not famous for no reason!
Our next stop was to have a quick leg stretch and walk around the viewing points on Lindis Pass. The pass lies between Lindis and Ahuriri Rivers. The tussock covered mountains dominate the view but it is supposed to be an excellent area to view a lot of native birdlife.
Our lunch stop was at Lake Pukaki. Lake Pukaki is the largest of three alpine lakes running north-south along the Mackenzie Basin. The glacial feed to the lake creates the bright blue colour, yes it really is that colour! The lake also has views of Aoraki / Mount Cook, which can be seen in the distance in the photo below. It is the highest mountain in New Zealand measuring 12,218-feet (3,724-metres) and it continues to grow, however, due to erosion and rock falls its height is kept in check.
When we arrived in Lake Tekapo we stopped by the Church of the Good Shepherd first. The church is tiny and located right on the edge of the lake, literally metres from the waters edge. Sadly we weren’t able to get any photos of the church and it’s spectacular views as there was a really large wedding in process and the area was full of people.
Despite wanting to stay longer than one night in the area we hadn’t been able to get accommodation so we stayed at the accommodation offer with the bus. This was the Lake Tekapo Motels and Holiday Park and we were fortunate enough to be able to get a private double room separate to the backpackers lodge. We had our own bathroom and a small kitchen and dining area, it was almost like having a studio apartment to ourselves which was a welcome change. The Holiday Park is located on the shore of the lake and within walking distance of Mt John.
Lake Tekapo is the second largest alpine lake, the third being Lake Ohau which we didn’t see and the first being Lake Pukaki mentioned previously. It has the same vibrant blue colouring as Lake Pukaki, although the photos below do not seem to do it justice. We enjoyed a nice stroll through the trees and along the pebble shore in the evening, despite the number of people around it was actually really quiet and relaxing.
That evening we cooked dinner with our friends Simon and Hanna and by we we mean Simon cooked for us! It was so nice to be able to have a great home cooked meal and to sit at a dining table and enjoy it together. Afterwards we went to walk up Mt John to be able to observe the night sky. The whole area is part of a dark sky reserve so because of this you are able to get amazing views of the stars. We had a relatively clear night and were treated to a spectacular sight. We only managed to walk about half way up the mountain but found a clearing that looked down over the lake and town and gave us a wonderful view of the whole sky. As we sat and looked at the stars it was as if more appeared before our eyes, it was absolutely breath-taking.
There was the option to visit the Observatory at a discounted rate with the bus but it was still far too expensive for us. We may have to save up and see if we can go back in the future, imagine what you’d be able to see with an enormous telescope!
Despite not being practiced in night time photography, and not having a tripod to sit the camera on, we did manage to take a couple of photos. The bottom photo gives you a better idea of just how many stars there are out there considering how few you can normally see.
We hope you’re enjoying these posts and photos. If you haven’t had chance already be sure to check out the accompanying video here.