We arrived late yesterday afternoon at lovely, lovely Lake Tekapo (population 350!) and took the de-rigeur photos at the Church of the Good Shepherd which overlooks the lake - a magnificent view. It is a tiny still fully-functioning church serving 3 Christian congregations. Very similar to Gougan Barra in west Cork in fact. It was built in 1935 as a memorial to the pioneers of the Mackenzie country. As ever the sun graced us with its presence.
Also took snaps at the bronze statue of the collie/sheep dog which was put up to honour the equally important role that all those sheep dogs helped in building this region.
We camped at the Tekapo Holiday Park which had amazingly good facilities.
Lake Tekapo is one of many lakes in this part of NZ originally formed by huge glaciers and then fed by huge canals and dams the Kiwis have built to generate hydroelectric power since the 1940s. The colour of the lake is simply stunning - a perfect turqoise blue especially when the sun shines. The water contains a particular sediment called 'rock flour' which gets created when the moving glacier rocks ground aginst the original river beds.
We climbed up the Mount John walkway this morning. This leads to NZ's highest astronomical observatory at 1035 metres. I bought a small booklet at the Astro Cafe on the top to help explain the southern sky so I'm pretty sure I can make out the Southern Cross now. The Crux (as it's also known as) is KITE shaped and actually has a 5th star unlike the 'false' diamond shaped one there to confuse us.
To either side of Lake Tekapo are Lakes Alexandrina and McGregor which you can make out in the photos but don't have the glacier blue colour.
On the way back I donned my runners again and ran half the trail and met Gerard in the van about 6-7 km out along the road. Very few cars passed so there was a real sense of 'the loneliness of the long distance runner' running along empty highway surrounded by majestic countryside. An hour later I was nice and sweaty.
Next stop was Lake Pukaki - even bigger than Tekapo - about 60kms away. At the bottom end of Pukaki lies New Zealand's highest peak - Mount Cook or in Maori - Aoraki. We hit our first rain and boy did it rain. I felt I was back in Ireland on a classic wet Sunday afternoon..sheets of the stuff.
We got to a public shelter. At home this would mean something akin to a bus shelter but here this was a wooden building equipped with boiling water, sinks with running water, tables and chairs, toilets and coin operated showers. Hmm - hot water was not working so I opted for a FREE freezing cold shower.
That evening we took refuge in the nearby Hermitage hotel which is an iconic part of a Mt Cook visit. This hotel has been built and rebuilt many times and is THE place to stay when visiting the national park.