Beyond Texas to New Zealand travel blog

Lake Tekapo

One of Mt. Johns observatories

Night sky from the top of Mt. John


Hike to Mt. John

day view from Mt. John

360 degree view

name of hostel

Our hostel, note the lawn

G relaxing

Mt. Cook observatory, dressed for the wind

Nov. 24 Tekapo is a town of nearly 400 on a major through fare lined by a strip of souvenir shops and dining venues. It has its own majestic lake and an imposing view of the mountains to boot!

Plus it is home to the nation’s observatory which we just happened to go visit. We signed up for an evening stargazing tour. After meeting at their office in town, we were shuttled up the to 1000 meter Mt. John. On the way we scattered herds of sheep which graze free range on this land. Oh, I forgot to tell you that they gave us knee length down filled coats to wear when we were up there. I was really puzzled by that since the elevation gain is just 700 meters and the day had not been particularly cold. My education was quickly completed when I left the van and felt the cold wind whip around me.

G and I really enjoyed visiting this observatory which is designated the number one international viewing spot for the night sky due to lack of light pollution and inclement weather.

We wondered about that since we have visited the McDonald observatory in the Davis Mountains and to our mind (sometimes G and I really think alike!) it is much darker there. We got to see two large telescopes and several smaller ones.

We did see stars although the night sky was overcast. Our highlight was viewing the Southern Cross! It was definitely a “Wow” moment for dear, sweet G! They showed us a video of the Southern hemisphere’s night sky while dining on warm brownies with fresh cream—I think cream should be served with desserts in the US; I just loved it. We also had hot chocolate. G says the McDonald Observatory could learn a thing or two about giving tours from the Kiwies.

Nov. 25 Today we went on a hike to the Mt. John Observatory.

It took us about an hour and a half to get there. There was elevation gain but not as steep as the road which the shuttle van took last night.

Again the wind increased as we neared the summit. In fact it blew so hard that the café at the observatory was closed that afternoon. Oh, the café was a delight. It is quite small with maybe 10 tables inside of a glass enclosed room. It overlooks grand views of the Southern Alps and the town of Tekapo. G says this is the way to hike and every peak should have a bakery and coffee shop at the top. I think brother Sam would appreciate that! It was delightful!

The rest of our time in Tekapo was spend walking by the lake and relaxing at our hostel.

It is the best accommodation so far. Previously, the electric company owned it and used it as workers’ quarters while they built another hydroelectric plant. It is three separate buildings with the dorm being an entirely different building. Oh, you can’t believe how relaxing that is. We are in the original home like unit that has a large sitting area (no TV) and galley kitchen. It also has our en suite room and one other quad unit. It has the carpet, in really good shape, that the electric company had laid down. It is patterned with turbines. The houses are on at least ½ acre of landscaped lands with benches, grass, and an outdoor grilling area. G’s favorite was the hammock!!! He kept close watch until it was vacated by the youth and then he pounced into it for his afternoon siesta.

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