From the get go, star gazing at Lake Tekapo was high up on my New Zealand road trip list. I’ve always been a bit of a star geek, and genuinely had books on space that I’d devour at quite a young age. When most kids were pressuring their parents in to buying tickets for the Spice Girls, I’d insisted that my mother take me to a talk given by the famous Astronomer Sir Patrick Moore. One of my earliest memories is my Dad waking me up in the middle of the night to watch a lunar eclipse and I once rather smugly beat adults at a quiz by knowing some obscure planet facts.
Yeah, I was a pretty weird kid.
So, a dark sky reserve on the edge of a lake on a clear night? I was pretty emphatic that this part of our plans happened. So much so that, after consulting the weather forecast, we cut our time in Queesntown short to arrive a day earlier than planned.
We arrived at Tekapo and pitched up at a campsite on the lake’s edge, watching the sunset with a gourmet dinner of pasta and pesto.
As the sun went down so did the temperature and we warmed ourselves up as much as we could. I of course did this with the tried and tested technique of getting in to bed and drinking lots of red wine. Sensible.
Mikey went out to take some test shots at the back of the camper, and I could hear his exclamations even with the door shut. After only a few minutes he raced back inside to show me the results.
With photos like this from within the campsite and next to a whole lot of light, what would a long walk to a very dark spot produce?
With 6 layers on (no exaggeration, it was freeze-your-nose-hairs-cold) we carried our tripod and camera down to the edge of the lake. While we could use the excuse of alcohol or ice to excuse our slow progress, really it was more to do with the fact we couldn’t take our eyes off the skies. Only slightly hazardous next to freezing cold water and icey stones.
You know how usually it takes a while for your eyes to gain their night vision and for stars to fully reveal themselves? Not here. You could shine a torch into your face (not recommended) and still look up to see the clouds of the milky way.
It’s a total cliche to say this, but the sky really was beyond words. Nowadays even when you live in ‘the middle of nowhere’ you’re still affected by light pollution, even if you don’t realise it. Looking up at the stars from the middle of the dark reserve definitely proved that for us.
Bear in mind that these photos were taken on our little Canon G16, a $460 camera. It did not take much to get a good photo.
The view made me want to do a little happy cry, but I feared that my tears would simply freeze to my cheeks. Warm it was not, even with half a bottle of red in my tummy and 74% of the clothes I own on my body.
Most people visit Tekapo for the cute little church or turquoise blue lake. But I urge you to come here on a clear night, stand on what feels like the edge of the world and look up.