Lake Tekapo, South Island, New Zealand
06.11.2010 - 09.12.2010 17 °C
Occasionally on my travels I have found a magic place. Just something about it, feels right, I feel alive, I reflect or I learn. Places such as El Nido (Philippines), Kalaw (Myanmar) and maybe Rottnest Island (Western Australia) spring to mind. Lake Tekapo felt special to me, it was definitely my favourite place in the whole of NZ. Very little development here, very natural, very peaceful, intensely beautiful. A real gem! Exactly what I needed to refuel body, mind and soul.
Lake Tekapo, like nearby Lake Pukaki we had stopped off on the way, is a glacial-fed lake. Glaciers grinding against rock produce a fine mineral-rich ‘rock flour’ that becomes suspended in the glacial melt, reflecting the sunlight and giving the MOST INCREDIBLE turquoise blue colour beyond your dreams. I had seen something similar in the Canadian rockies but not quite as vivid as this. Surrounding Lake Tekapo are beautiful mountains and glaciers of the Southern Alps, including Mount Cook, ‘the cloud-piercer’ which is New Zealand’s highest mountain. Much of the energy from the fast flowing rivers coming off the glaciers and lakes is cunningly harnessed as hydro-electric power, providing electricity for much of the country. NZ gets approx 85% of its energy from natural resources such as hydro and thermal electricity and continues to push towards the magical 100% sustainable energy sources. WOW!
This place inspired me, i was bowled over. I joined Suze and Sylvia for some horseriding around the lake. Other than the pony that took me part of the way up Mount Bromo in Indonesia, I had never actually ridden a full sized horse before. I drew the short straw and got to ride ‘Trev’ the rebellious one of the group that liked to hang around at the back of the group causing mischief! I think he was just a little misunderstood and meant well! We trekked on horseback through pine forests and of course around the beautiful lake, finishing up with a trot along the beach of the lake. My legs ached and my hands were sore from trying to control naughty Trev with the reigns but I loved every minute.
Early next morning, another treat I just couldn’t resist. It was an absolutely picture-perfect sunny day and I took a scenic flight over Lake Tekapo, over the braided glacial rivers feeding the lake, over snow covered mountain ranges, right across the alps to the West coast to Franz Josef, where I had hiked, and Fox glaciers, looking towards the rainforest and the Tasman sea, finishing with a fly around Mount Cook. I just do not have the words to describe how incredible this was. There was not a ripple on Lake Tekapo and it looked glossy and so bright, like polished glass. I also saw the whole thing from THE CO-PILOT’S SEAT!! I am so so lucky.
I was back in my room trying to take it all in when Suze called round ‘let’s go for a walk doll’. Suze was actually only going to stay at the lake for one night but also fell in love with this place so just had to stay longer, even rearranging a flight to be able to do so.
We walked around the lake together, not quite believing it’s beauty, so many lupins in full bloom lining the shores. Then we trekked up nearby Mount John, home to an observatory for star gazing. I will come back to this other incredible thing about the lake, the sky at night, shortly. We took the steep route through the pine forests on the way up the mountain and the longer, less steep, route coming down the other side. We did not stop gassing the whole time, actually Suze in more way than one ‘something i have eaten, Gordon Bennett, sorry’!!! We talked, we laughed, we laughed some more. At the top of the mountain I set up my camera on a tripod with delay timer to take a shot of both of us at the top, nice! Suze then put her camera on the tripod to do the same, assuring me that she had set the timer. I lean over to press the button and it took the pic straight away! The daft mare had not set it up properly so we were left with a hilarious close-up shot of me peering into the camera with Suze posing on the edge of the mountain in the background!! This kept us giggling for a very long time!! On the way down we also bumped into Alberto and another fun Spanish guy, Dani! They were climbing to the top of the mountain for a romantic sunset. Turns out Alberto had snapped some plebs on horseback riding on the beach, didn’t realise it was us !
Another reason to adore Lake Tekapo is the night time skies. In the middle of nowhere, shielded from moonlight by the surrounding mountains, and light pollution carefully controlled, even street lights dimmed and angled strategically, after dark the sky is magically lit up with SO MANY STARS, infinite..... I seriously have never seen so many in my life, did not realise there were so many stars up there. I was impressed with the night skies in Kambalda, in the middle of nowhere in Western Australia, but this place was something else. Suze and Maxx walked me back to my hostel after a lovely evening and we marvelled at the sky. And yes I had only had a couple of beers! I did have another one of my ‘moments’. Special place, special people.
Final day at Tekapo (did I really have to leave?) another walk, this time to the cute little church overlooking the lake. This was followed by a few hours of total BLISS that beats any kind of spa relaxation treatment. I lay on a rock surrounded by the lake, watching the reflections sometimes there, sometimes not, depending on the breeze. I took in the mountains, the turquoise lake, the peaceful energy in the air, the rocks clearly visible under the pure glacial water. I thought about taking a dip but seeing as the water was 7 degrees celcius only managed my legs. This was my heaven.