Just like Jon Snow, I don’t know much about astronomy. Heck I don’t even remember all the planet name in our solar system and their sequence. So I booked myself to stargazing tours at Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook on two successive days, without checking the dates and realizing that those are two full moon days!
I think the tour in Lake Tekapo is worth doing. They have proper hardware, obviously very technically savvy staffs, and some cool photos and time-lapse videos in the office. Mt Cook stargazing is a waste of money in my opinion, thought the educational video is good. Unless you’re hiking the trails in Mt Cook, I’d say skip it altogether.
Stopped by Dunedin between Catlins and Tekapo. It’s a big city, I think the biggest I’ve been to in NZ so far! There are a number of old buildings which are interesting, and of course the famous train station. Didn’t have much time to explore, plus it was raining so bit difficult to explore on foot. The center of the town an octagon-shaped area called… the Octagon, where you find bars, shop, etc. I did go to the farmers’ market in the morning and they got some seriously good fruits, veggies, coffees, jam, that obviously very fresh and at very good prices!
Drove my way from Dunedin to Lake Tekapo, with a stop by in Oamaru. There’s not much to see in Oamaru really, visited the Blue Penguin Colony Centre which was quite interesting to see a penguin close-up, but couldn’t stay for the night viewing. The architecture of the city is supposedly Victorian, so there’s lots of cool-looking old buildings. Other than that, not much really.
Lake Tekapo is a small town, it’s literally a couple of blocks in size. The drive into Lake Tekapo was actually very scenic. I was worried we will have shitty sky because it was raining like crazy all the way from Dunedin, but once I got into Lake Tekapo, the sky was blue and spotless. Amazing!
Initially I plan to camp but it’s incredibly cold so I got myself a motel dorm room. Booked into a stargazing tour with Earth and Sky. The tour is basically on a research centre in Mount John which is not accessible to public after 5pm, so there’s no way to go up without joining the tour. Being an actual research centre, they got some serious hardwares, large telescope and all those expensive glasses. Unfortunately it was full moon, but still the clarity of the sky was amazing we can still see plenty of stars. I experimented with astrophotography for the first time here, the lack of photos is not because of the location, but because I only figured out how to take the stars photos the next day in Mt Cook!
Mt Cook is the tallest peak in NZ at 3,724m (yes it’s been told so many times I actually remember the exact number). The view is actually quite amazing. It’s popular with hiking in places like the Hooker Valley Track, a 3-hour walk, which obviously I couldn’t be bothered to go, but it takes you in front of Mt Cook and the view supposed to be amazing.
Anyways, I opted for the easy way and booked myself for a Stargazing Tour. The cost is actually half of the tour in Lake Tekapo, but it’s really not great. It starts with a short video on the universe played on a dome-shaped projector which is kinda cool. But the actual outdoor stargazing actually done off 2 small telescopes which is kinda… lame compared to Lake Tekapo. However, this is where I finally figured out the Live Composite feature on my awesome Olympus OM-D EM-1 and finally managed to take star trails photos. Unfortunately, the night I was there was the supermoon night so it’s extremely bright night, but managed to get a couple of photos. It’s amazing what the camera can do that our eyes can’t see.
Going to the west coast next!
P.S. I didn’t know until quite recently that the term kiwi actually comes from the national bird. I always thought it’s from the kiwi fruit!