What a view to wake up to..
The next day, still in Lake Tekapo, after a hearty New Zealand breakfast we set off on a hike up to the observatory at the top of Mount John. As we ascend the 1029 metres it provides some mind blowing views of the Southern Alps. The snow capped mountains seem to surround us on all sides and the lake below is a sparkling blue. I am sure this must have featured somewhere in LOTR, if not, it should have been!
The round trip is supposed to take around 2.5 hours but we take a lot longer, stopping to take in the incredible views along the way. At the summit we stop for a coffee at the observatory cafe along with a few others who have taken the easy way of driving up – where’s the fun in that?
Boosted by the caffeine fix and disappointed by the sausage rolls, we eventually head back down to the campsite where we have parked the van for our second nights stay in the village. We grab our swimming togs and head to the hot pools next door where there are three separate pools varying in temperature from warm arm to quite hot. There is something about sitting in thermal pools heated to around 45c in air temperatures close to zero that is exceedingly rejuvenating. Even more “rejuvenating” is the walk from one pool to the other which quickly reminds us that air temperatures are still around freezing! The relative peace and quiet is soon broken when the local school bus arrives and delivers its cargo of over-excited teenagers for their after school dip, so we make our excuses and leave.
Our ticket to the thermal pools covers us for 48 hours so we return that evening for a second dip when it is even colder but we get the added benefit laying back in the pool and looking up at a brilliant starlit night. This area has been designated as the “Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve ” by the International Dark Sky Organisation, one of only four in the world, hence, I suppose, the reason for plonking an observatory atop the mountain.
Lake Tekapo town may have grown somewhat since our last visit in 2008 but it is still a very special place and one of our favourite places in the country.