NZ Travel: The Looong roadtrip (Franz Josef-Tekapo)

Day 4 of our NZ trip and it’s time to leave Franz Josef and set out for a reaaaaally long roadtrip to Lake Tekapo. The drive time is 8 hours total, so basically a whole day on the road.

Going to Lake Tekapo if you check the map, isn’t the most logical choice given the route since you’re basically going back up to the Canterbury region, and then going back down again to get to Queenstown.  But we forced this place into the itinerary because of the good reviews and pictures we saw of the place.. So we agreed that we won’t stop long in any place or do walks.. Stops are only for those that we pass by along the way.

First stop we made was in Fox glacier town, this is another one of the popular places to do glacier walks in besides Franz Josef.  I’m not sure which of the 2 is better, but unlike Franz Josef, I couldn’t really see the glacier mountain from the town.  We stopped to check out the Lake Mattheson reserve, the entrance had a cafe overlooking this beautiful scenery.

There’s a 40 minute round trip walk to a scenic lookout of the lake, but we decided to not do that anymore and just press on with our road trip.

The road going to Wanaka is near Mt. Aspiring National Park, Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea.  So again a lot of panoramic views of mountains and lakes to capture along the way.

Lake Hawea

Finally we reached the halfway point of our trip.. Wanaka.  From here a lot of people would just go to Arrowtown or Queenstown, which is another 2 hours away.  For us though, we headed up to get to Lake Tekapo.

I absolutely love the South Island.  Again, just the drive itself offered different views of mountain ranges. My fave shot is this one of Lindis Pass.

After this very long drive, we’re finally here!  Big question now is.. was our long drive worth it? HECK YEAH!!! 😀 The pictures don’t do it justice (this is all just my iphone), but the water was a really vivid turquoise blue color, in a dramatic backdrop of mountains.  And the clouds during our visit added that extra drama to the scenery.

And near the lake was this quaint church called the Church of the Good Shepherd.

We just stayed in this area, snapping away until the sunset.

Now, of course given the long drive we did, we wanted to do something else besides sleep here and leave the next day.  Perfect enough, Lake Tekapo offers a unique activity that fits into our schedule and I’ve never done before.. stargazing!

Lake Tekapo offers some clear views of the stars, thanks to the lack of light pollution.  This is also home to the Mt. Johns observatory, used for actual astronomy research.  While they’re not doing research, there’s regular tours provided at night for the chance to see the stars in the observatory telescopes.  We booked our tour via the Earth and Sky tour which offers you a chance to see the observatory, view the stars, and if you have a DSLR camera, they have an astrophotographer who can guide you on how to take shots of the stars at night!

The experience was literally out of this world.  First in order to prevent polluting the sky with light, the bus ride to the top of the observatory was dark and the driver was driving with minimal lights on.  Then when we get out, we were provided with small red lights (white lights are not allowed) so we can see where we’re stepping on.  Then it was an introduction to astronomy.  They pointed out what specific stars were, we saw the Milky Way, they pointed out specific objects that we can see via the telescope. My favorite was getting to see Jupiter and Saturn!! As in I can literally see the planet (although small), and the moons surrounding Jupiter.  And for Saturn I could see the planet with the rings.

It was amazing!!! And lucky because even if you were to book this tour, there’s no guarantee you’ll get clear skies to actually see anything.  So we were so happy to have gotten this opportunity in our only night here.

My friend brought her DSLR camera, so the astrophotographer mounted it in a special tripod they use and set it up to be able to take clear shots of the stars and the Milky way.

From my friend’s DSLR camera

And if that wasn’t enough, we got to have a group photo taken under the night sky!  This picture is actually the first time I get to see the other people I was with in the tour.

And so this ended another memorable experience here in the South Island of New Zealand 😀

Next day, it’s another long drive down to get to the Fiordland region, in the town of Te Anau.  Until my next post!

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