The weather wasn’t great for the first two days I was in Lake Tekapo but it was forecast that it would pick up very soon. I was really hoping that I would get at least one clear day but a clear night especially. Lake Tekapo is a great place for watching the stars at night. The region is renowned for the clarity of its sky and freedom from light pollution. On top of that, Mt. John Observatory, which is the most southerly optical observatory in the world, boasts New Zealand’s largest telescope. I did a Stargazing Tour with the Earth and Sky Observatory the last time I was here and it left a lasting impression on me, like an etching that you can’t erase. It was brilliant and it was such an enjoyable tour.
I thought to myself that maybe there’s no point really, in doing the same stargazing tour again, so I wanted to do something a little different this time. I did go back up to Mt. John but it was via one of the well known walking routes and I did it with a Scottish woman named Fiona who I’d met at the hostel. It would have taken me about an hour and a half to do this walk from the hostel but Fiona had a car and we drove to the Alpine Spa car park and walked from there. It was a beautiful day. The sun was blazing, like there was no tomorrow, there were blue skies and it was a great day for walking. We got to the summit and the view from there is stunning: you could see the snow capped mountain range of Mt. Cook in the distance and the turquoise blue of Lake Tekapo in all its glory to the right.
Fiona didn’t stay for too long. She headed back down after about twenty minutes but I got talking to this New Zealand couple who had Australian friends visiting them. The Kiwi couple, Joan and Dennis, had a lot of Irish relatives living in Ireland. While we were talking, there was an astronomer from the observatory there, who set up a small telescope that was designed specifically to look at the sun. It cost two dollars to have a look through the telescope, which I did and it was amazing to see. You could see the sun really clearly. It was a big, fiery, red ball, with a few flares coming off its surface, which looked a bit bumpy and when I say it was fiery red, I mean it was red like the devil! It was the first time I’d ever seen the sun through a telescope and it’s something I think I’ll always remember. I got a lift back down to the village with Joan and Dennis.
I had lunch at the Tekapo Tavern: lasagna, chips and salad, which was lovely. Then I decided to try out the Cowan’s Hill Walk. It was supposed to take about an hour and a half return to do this walk but the route was hardly signposted and I got a bit lost on the way. I did get talking to a woman called Liz Scott, who’s been living in Lake Tekapo for the last forty seven years, on the road and she gave me directions on how to get to Cowan’s Hill. She also gave me the names of three people who I could contact with regards to finding work in the area, which was very good of her. Liz walked me to the gateway to the start of the forest part of the walk and pointed me in the right direction. There were no signs in the forest of course and I came out onto a fenced field. I couldn’t see any way over or around it. There was supposed to be a style that you cross over, from the forest to the field which leads to Cowan’s Hill but I couldn’t see any sign of a style.
I followed the fence to a point where it came to a graveled road and a gate with barbed wire that I climbed over, as it looked like it led to Cowan’s Hill. God, talk about an adventure! I got to the top of a hill and found the style that was mentioned in the brochure, finally and knew then that I was in the right place. I was laughing at myself because I would never be doing this in Amsterdam: trying to find a walking track, in the middle of a field, through a forest, at the top of a hill! From the style, there was an official walking track, which led me through a gold coloured field and up onto the brow of Cowan’s Hill, marked by a “Lion’s Walking Club” bench. I absolutely loved it. You see I love walking through fields at home around Kilkenny and with scenery that was as stunning as the day was long, my heart was singing. The view of Lake Tekapo from here was glorious. It was the eastern side of the lake and with the sun blazing down, the blue colour of the water was even bluer than I’d seen before. To the left of the lake was Mt. John and behind me were mountains in the distance and I was in the middle of it all. God I loved it!