We left Wanaka for Tekapo today. What a charming, charming town! Tekapo might seem tiny to most people (the shops are all on one side of an already short street! Unimaginable if you come from a place where Nathan Road is the answer to shopping). But we couldn’t help falling in love with it. The food is good, the town is bustling, and the views… my goodness, the views.
Due to particles in the water known as “rock flower”, Lake Pukaki is reflected in a striking shade of turquoise. Snowy, white mountains line the edge of the lake and there’s the picture-perfect Church of the Good Shepherd by the shore.
You could easily spend the whole afternoon just sitting by the shores taking it all in, but you should leave some energy for the night, for that’s when the stars come out to play. Tekapo has one of the darkest skies in the world because of the lack of light pollution and air pollution. Universities from around the world have invested millions in building astronomy research facilities here. And on a crisp, moonless night like tonight, you can see our galaxy in all its glory.
Fun fact: did you know that even in the clearest of skies, such as that in Tekapo, everything that you see in the sky with your naked eye actually sits right in our own Milky Way? Our naked eye can’t see beyond our galaxy. Speaking of which, if you’d like a guided tour of the galaxy, take the Sky & Earth night tour at Mt. John Observatory. We learned about the ancient constellations, how to use the stars to find the compass directions in case we ever got lost, and even saw saturn through the telescope.
If you are serious about getting a good view or photo of the stars, you should consult a moon chart when planning your trip dates to Tekapo. These charts will tell you how full the moon will be on a specific date, and the more advanced charts will even tell you the time the moon rises/sets. Ideally, you want no moon or just the slightest crescent. Anything more will be completely blown out in long exposure photos of the sky.