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This page last updated: 29th November 2005.
|Day 17: Lake Tekapo||Map|
We have a very good night's sleep in the comfortable bed. In the morning John serves up a scrumptious breakfast and we talk with the other guests about where we've been the previous day. John and Gary help us with the luggage and we leave mid-morning.
We stop in Queenstown for petrol. I am just beginning to get used to the idea that self-service at petrol stations hasn't arrived in New Zealand. Here an assistant fills up the car and washes your windscreen while you go into the office to pay.
We head out of town past the bridge where people are queuing up to go bungy-jumping. We don't stop until we get to Cromwell where we turn off the main road and find our way down to Old Cromwell on the shores of Lake Dunstan. Old Cromwell is a living (almost) museum. A series of old buildings have been rescued from a village, drowned by a reservoir. On the main street there is a printing works, a general store reconstructed as it was in 1915 and Belfast Store which had been both a drapers and a furniture and electrical store.
One of the charms of the place is that it is so low-key. It isn't loudly advertised as a tourist attraction, but just sits there waiting to be discovered. Exploring around the place (actually we are searching for the toilets) we discover further preserved or restored buildings freely accessible. In one there is an old pram. In another is a dentist's chair. A friendly cat that is following us around jumps onto the chair.
From Old Cromwell it is a long haul over the Lindis Pass, a brown landscape that seems to go on for ever. We drive around the small town of Twizel but don't stop. Anyone remember the Pete Seeger song "Little Boxes"? We stop briefly at the foot of Lake Pukaki where there is a visitor centre with rest rooms. There is a view of Mount Cook but nothing compared with the sight from Franz Joseph so we carry on to Lake Tekapo.
Lake Tekapo Lodge is fairly new. Lynda and John van Beek welcome us and show us our room. It has a spa bath and overlooks the lake. We have a cup of tea and then while Christine sorts out the laundry I take a walk into the village. I make enquiries about a boat-trip and am put into contact with "Kiwi Pete" who will take us out at 7 p.m. Back at the lodge, the laundry is out of the washer and into the dryer. We take the car back to the village and find something to eat. The best we can manage at this time in the afternoon is burger and chips. We've had better. On our return to the lodge we talk to Lynda and she arranges for us to go stargazing at 9 p.m.
We get to the lakeside about 6.40. Here we meet a widow from Auckland who is staying at the Youth Hostel. She is also going on the lake. It is quite a steep walk down a grassy bank to the boat, but we make it safely. Pete takes us out and shows us the inlet from the canal which was built between 1938 and 1951 to supply water for eight power stations in the Waitaki Valley. We then follow the eastern shore where a lorry coming from the Lilybank Sheep Station is kicking up dust on the gravel road. In the distance at the northern end of the lake is the Godley Glacier. We sail around Motuariki Island which has lots of wildlife and on to which we could have disembarked to explore had we wished. As we return the sun is slowly setting behind Mount Cook.
Back on dry land we make our way zig-zag up the bank with the help of our Auckland friend. We bid her farewell, thank Pete and return to the lodge. We have time for a cuppa in the lounge, before Japanese astronomer Hide Ozawa calls to pick us up in his transit van. He takes us a little way out of the village and across two rutted fields to his tiny observatory. There are a dozen or so people here as well as two helpers. We are split into three groups, two who speak English, and one fluent in Japanese.
It is a very clear evening and the heavens are beautiful. At first we are shown the stars as they appear to the naked eye. Hide points out the constellations and the planets Jupiter and Saturn. He shows us the milky way and helps us to clearly see the position of the Southern Cross. Whilst we are observing the sky we also catch site of the Mir spaceship passing across the sky. In a week's time it is due to splash down somewhere in the sea between here and Chile.
Inside the observatory itself is a large telescope. This is trained on to Jupiter. Through it we can clearly see the swirling gas clouds and four moons, one to the NW and three almost in a line to the SE. Outside in the field, two smaller telescopes have been set up. Through one of these we view Saturn, its magnificent rings showing up splendidly. All I can say is "Wow!" We also take a close look at the Jewel-box constellation and the Orion nebulae.
It is very cold, so we are pleased to return to the warmth of the lodge and have a hot drink before retiring to bed, having enjoyed a splendid evening.
My poem Stargazing in New Zealand based on this evening's visit was translated into Romanian by Andrei Dorian Gheorge and published in SARM news.
|Journal - Day 18||Photographs - Day 17|