Last night we went stargazing. As Lake Tekapu reputedly has the second darkest skies in the southern hemisphere it’s perhaps unsurprising that it’s a place where people spend a lot of their time looking up at the heavens. So last night we went out to a small observatory just outside town where two very nice, but very nerdish, young men entertained us for a couple of hours by letting us handle their 12 inch instruments. Live long and prosper.
Today we ‘did’ Mt Cook/Aoraki – at 3,724 meters it’s the highest mountain in New Zealand and pretty spectacular from wherever you happen to be perched. We took the 50km road up along the side of Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook/Aoraki Village and, after a coffee and a slightly overdue Skype call to son Thomas in Canada, decided to trek up the Hooker Valley to the glacial lake at the foot of the mountain.
More spectacular views and even more pictures – I have a feeling that the slideshow in the Village Hall is going to run to a couple of evenings!
Footsore but more than a little smug at having overtaken loads of people half our age on the trail up and down the mountain in temperatures over 30 degrees, we climbed back on board our covered wagon and drove the 70 or so km to Omarama. Another hard day at the office!
Monster photograph day! In the good old days of 35mm film we’d have needed a small trailer to carry all the rolls of film that we’d have shot today. Fortunately with a 32gb memory card in the camera it seems that I can take another 3,000 or so photos today before it starts to fill up – unlikely, but possible given the current rate of snapping.
Fortunately, or unfortunately depending upon your point of view, it’s the sort of country where every corner you turn makes you want to stop and take a few dozen more snaps so that you can be sure of capturing the beauty of the place. The sad thing, of course, is that no matter how clever the camera may be, it simply can’t compare with the Mark One Eyeball when it comes to capturing the very best view possible. Never mind – just think how many slide shows we’ll be able to give in the Village Hall when we get home (book now to avoid disappointment!).
Lake Tekapo is truly beautiful. Our campsite is about 50m from the water’s edge, so as I sit here waxing lyrical I have a perfect view over the lake to the mountains beyond. This afternoon we walked the five or six miles up to the Mount John Observatory and this evening we’ve shelled out on a ‘night sky experience’ – Tekapo has some of the clearest skies in the southern hemisphere , so a little stargazing through one of the big telescopes sounds seems like a good idea.
The rain didn’t last long. By the time that we’d made it to the outskirts of Christchurch the drizzle had stopped and the sun was starting to peep through the clouds. Our chariot is a well-used VW T35 camper which has 200+km on the clock and will probably double that before it reaches the end of its working life. Having spent a few minutes this evening working out how best to store our goods and chattels in the van’s various nooks and crannies (what is a cranny?) we’re sure that it’s going to make a perfectly comfortable home for the next five weeks.
First stop of the day was Ashburton Cemetery to call in on Great Uncle George. About a decade ago some kind soul kindly sent me a photo of the grave, so fortunately we were able to recognise it pretty quickly and didn’t have to traipse past too many headstones in order to track him down. Ashburton is quite small now, but judging by the number of folk who were buried there in the first few years of the 20th century it must have been quite a lively place back then (not, of course, for them!). Anyway, the gravestone has stood the test of time for the last century and looks like it will continue to do the job for a few more decades. He was 21 when he died in 1913 – it must have been heartbreaking for his parents to bury their son in a distant, foreign land knowing that they’d never see his last resting place. His sister, my grandmother, lost two husbands and two brothers in less than 7 years; that’s hard.
Getting back to the land of the living we moved on to Timaru which is another 60km or so further down the coast. We didn’t go all the way into the town but had a wander around Caroline Bay and paid our respects to the Pacific Ocean before moving on to Pleasant Point – at which point it was time to pull the waggons into a circle and set up camp for the night.
….holiday blogs, motoring obsessions and an occasional account of goings-on in the Ewbank household