From the Stars to Rohan is the only way to describe our adventures from Tekapo to Twizel. This area has so much beautiful scenery it’s hard to breathe while visiting, whether it’s day or night. During the day grassy plains meet with the indescribably blue lakes as snow capped Mountains stand tall in the distance, during the night immense darkness sets in and the stars illuminate the darkness and for a brief moment, nothing is important but the twinkle of the night.
It’s absolutely captivating to see so many stars in the sky, Tekapo is an international dark sky reserve and at night the sky is seriously something to be marveled at. It was a great pit spot for a night as we patiently waited for the cover of night to observe the universe in all of it’s glory (okay maybe we are being a bit obsessive about it but it’s seriously phenomenal).
All the outdoor lights in the town are orange or red so they do not create additional light pollution so as not to disturb the darkness. When the sun starts to set the stars seem to appear out of no where and not just a few, thousands of them! It was only around 7pm when they began to litter the sky and flicker at us to gain our attention.
The Milky Way was visible even with our naked eye.
It gave us a chance to almost step back in time and see the universe as the ancient peoples once did. Being able to see so may stars is unlike anything else. Don’t get us wrong, obviously we have stars in Canada too, but our dark sky reserves don’t do it quite as well as this one does. At home the reserves don’t use a lot of orange or red lights so the street lights and building lights still tend to disturb the darkness and cause some light pollution. It’s also probably not overly safe to go venturing into the dark in Canada where something is probably waiting to eat you. In New Zealand the worst thing to happen will probably be a sheep brushing it’s fluffy wool against your leg.
This is by no means the only place to see stars in the country though almost every camp ground we have gone to has been in the middle of seemingly no where with no lights allowing the stars to shimmer. But Tekapo allowed us to step outside of our hostel door, look up and see the hundreds of thousands of twinkling lights in the sky. That’s not typically something you get in the middle of really any town.
There is a church here however, The Church of the Good Shepard, which is a star photographers dream. It’s extremely popular for tourists to grab a snapshot of (and rightfully so it’s pretty damn cool) and is almost impossible to capture without getting a tourist or two in your photo. It’s a small cobblestone building with a large wooden door and a small bell on the top. Basically it’s the perfect foreground for the universe.
Travelling in the winter to mountain towns tends to have it’s benefits because when we arrived at the church around 9pm there weren’t many people, which means less people to photoshop out of our shots. Winter is obviously pretty cold though, so to get a nice long star trail meant standing outside freezing for about an hour risking the potential loss of toes. Andy was not as keen as I was on standing in the cold for just one shot, took a bit of sucking up and a few future coffees to keep him outside for as long as I did. Eventually he retreated back to the warmth of the van, much to my fingers jealousy.
The night sky in Tekapo isn’t the only reason it’s so popular, it’s lake (of the same name) is also something to marvel at. The blue of this lake isn’t something we can even described to you because it’s so blue it could be it’s own individual paint chip.
We almost missed our check in time at our hostel because of my intense need to somehow capture the color of the water. Thankfully Andy has a sense of time and can keep me in check because if it wasn’t for him I’d be like the famously late rabbit from Alice in Wonderland.
When we left Tekapo we headed towards Twizel (probably no longer than an hour) which sits beside Lake Pukaki, the blue of the lake is much like Tekapo, indescribably blue. We just did a road side pit stop in Twizel as we continued on our way to Oamaru. There isn’t really anything in the town itself, other than grabbing a snapshot of the lake. It’s not just the blue of this lake that is stunning but across the water is the mighty Mount Cook.
New Zealand’s tallest mountain.
Every 100 metres there is a road side pull off for tourists. If they didn’t have as many we are certain there would be quite a few accidents from people going slow or angry local drivers honking at tourists to get a move on. We were those tourists, going slow and eventually pulling over in the shoulder just to run across the road cameras in hand.
Another reason to drive around or at least visit this area, they filmed a few things from the Lord Of The Rings and Hobbit movies.
The plains between these two towns was used as the plains of Rohan, and Lake Pukaki was the home of Laketown.
Welcome to Middle Earth. Please drive through.