Thursday, June 14, 2012
June 10 - Lake Tekapo
June 10 - Lake Tekapo
We arrived in Lake Tekapo around 8:45 PM last night. The reception closed at 8:30, so we had just missed it. We drove around the campground for a few minutes and then chose a spot that looked like an area where tents would be. It is winter so naturally nobody is camping, except us.
We got out of the tent around 8:30 AM. Andy keeps setting the alarm for 7 and then turning it off without getting up. I have always been up much earlier, but it’s hard to tell the time since it’s so dark in the tent. Our campsite was surrounded by mountains and trees so no light was shining in at all.
We went to the bathroom to get cleaned up and refill our water. While I was leaving the bathroom the man running the campsite asked who we were. I told him he got here late last night and were going to go check in and he said it was fine.
After breakfast we went to the reception building and paid for our site and asked about things to do in the area. He suggested going up Mt. John and seeing the observatory and look out area. That was already on our agenda. He also mentioned a few other places to see in the area if we had time, hot pools, ice skating, and a few hikes. Basically things I had already heard. He also told us about some things to do near Twizel for the next day, which is where we were heading.
We drove down to the end of the campground area where the hike up Mt. John began. We were told it would take 40 minutes to get up and an hour to get down. The first part of the hike was covered by trees and on the side of the mountain away from the sun so we were told it would be cold. We were the first people to arrive at the parking area for the hike, but a few minutes later a few more cars showed up.
The hike was pretty steep and had icy parts on it from the snow from the previous few days. The beginning of it reminded me of the part in the Lord of the Rings when Frodo and Sam were trying to run from the Orcs and the guy that was supposed to be protecting them was killed. I don’t know what movie it is or who the guys name was.
We did a lot of filming of ourselves hiking and took lots of pictures. There was one spot where you could see a view of the lake with mountains in the background and another view of mountains far off in the distance.
As we walked further the trail got steeper and the trees started to disappear. We saw a few people along the trail, most of them passing us going up. We were going pretty slow since we were stopping so much to take pictures and videos. We were trying to do shots with both our gopro cameras to make it look like we were hiking. It required us to run ahead or run back to retrieve or place the cameras strategically.
We made it to the top after about an hour. We had really good views of Lake Tekapo, Lake McGregor, and Lake Alexandria with mountains in the background. At the top there were three observatories, a small café, and a parking lot. The top was kind of crowded, but most of the people had driven to the top. We could have done that too, but we wanted to do the hike.
The lighting wasn’t very good on some of the mountains, but we were still able to get some good shots. We spent about an hour at the top taking pictures and getting some videos. We wanted to go down a different way which went along the lakes.
We walked back towards where we came up looking for a route down. We found a sign that we had seen earlier that said the Mt. John Hike continued on from where we had turned off before. It seemed like the hike was going in the complete wrong direction from where we wanted to go, but decided to go down it anyway. Most of this part of the hike gave us views of Lake Alexandria. The trail was on a ridge and basically flat. Right above us was the road, maybe 20 yards above on part of the hike.
After a few minutes the trail started turning back towards the observatory, but at a lower level. We could see the trail we were on before from above, but didn’t know how to get there. I guess we had found it. We had just walked in a circle around the top of the mountain, but slightly lower and behind a fence to keep the sheep in. We didn’t see any sheep at this point, but there are fences everywhere in New Zealand to keep them in. In most places you have to open a gate or climb a few steps to get through. These areas are built into the hike. I guess the fence was there before the trail.
After we passed by the observatories there was a steep hill to the top of a lookout area. We hiked up it and took some more pictures. The lighting was getting a little better now since the sun was going lower. Rather than walk back the same way down we had just gone up, we did some rock scrambling down to reconnect to the trail.
This trail led right back to the original trail we had started on earlier in the morning. We didn’t see any other trail in the area so we just walked back the same way. We passed a lot of people coming up. We didn’t stop very often for pictures, but we did stop a lot to get some videos.
It was probably around 2 PM at this point. I had only eaten a little bit of limbus bread, a banana, and a fiber one bar for breakfast around 9 so I was getting hungry. I only had a little bit of water to drink as well. I felt dizzy and my legs felt heavy as we were walking a few times.
We wanted to go to the Good Shepherd Church. We didn’t know where it was before, but along the hike to the top of Mt. John we were able to see it. It wasn’t very far from the campsite. We got back to the car and wanted to go get some pictures. We decided to see the church first, and have a picnic lunch in the car afterwards.
Behind the church are some mountains and the lake so we spent about 45 minutes taking pictures in the area. There was also a statue of a collie sheep dog. It was created to honor the dogs that helped New Zealanders live off the land, according to the sign posted on the base of the statue.
In one of my Lonely Planet books and all over New Zealand there is a famous picture of the church with the mountains in the background. We couldn’t find what angle the picture was taken, but after a little investigating we decided it was from across a bridge back towards our campground.
We crossed the bridge and drove down a little ways on a side road, but still couldn’t figure it out. The angle made no sense based on where the mountains were in the back. There was a big tree along the lake that would have had to block the shot based on where they would have had to take it. We hiked around for awhile, but nothing.
We decided the shot was taken farther back, probably on a boat in the water, and before the tree was there. Which means the picture had to be old. Otherwise, it was completely photo shopped. Regardless, we couldn’t recreate the picture. Oh well, the one’s we got were good.
In this area is where we had our lunch. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches with chips and our two cookies. It wasn’t much, but it was enough for me. Andy walked around trying to find where the picture was taken, but I was tired of looking so I just stayed at the car.
It was now around 5 and the sun was going down. We needed to find something for dinner so we went to town and bought four cups of ramen noodles, and a big bag of huge carrots. We were going to get spaghetti and sauce, but we have no pots or pans to cook things and the campsites don’t have any either. They have stoves, microwaves, toasters, and refrigerators to share, but no cooking equipment. We decided that when we get a chance we will buy a pot, but the one’s we saw in Lake Tekapo were too expensive. We could also use a spoon since I don’t have one and possibly a pan to cook eggs.
After buying our dinner it was getting dark so we headed back to the campsite. Along the way we stopped along the side of the road and took some pictures of the sunset across the lake. By the time we finished with that it was getting dark and we were ready to eat our dinner.
We went to the communal kitchen and started fixing our food. It just meant opening the lid, pouring hot water and the contents, and then mixing. The pack of ramen noodles we decided to eat was Chow Mein. It was ok, but didn’t taste like Chow Mein. The kind I had before didn’t have water in it, but it was alright. The carrot I had was huge, like 6 inches long, but it was really good. Much better than I have at home. The baby carrots I usually eat are hard as a rock and hurt my teeth, these kind were easy to chew. We also ate our two cookies.
There was a Japanese girl cooking at the same time. She was making a gourmet feast. I don’t know what all it had, but it included rice, boiled eggs cut in half with the yoke in the middle, similar to a deviled egg, some kind of green beans, and two other dishes that I didn’t know what they were. Regardless, it was a lot of food and must have taken a while to prepare. It looked fancier than something I would make at home in a normal kitchen.
As we were about to leave some Japanese guy showed up and they ate the food together. That meal looked like it could have fed four people, as in me and Andy also. Maybe once we get a pot we can cook fancy stuff too. For now it’s peanut butter and jelly and ramen noodles in a cup, with a few cookies.
After dinner we drove back down to the lake to do some time lapse photos. This area is one of the darkest places in New Zealand and the world. It’s known for it’s observatories and ability to see the night sky. We wanted to take advantage of that while we could.
We hiked a short distance from the road to the shoreline and sat our cameras up. You could see the Milky Way really clearly, as well as two small clusters of clouds that looked like they could be distant galaxies. As our eyes adjusted to the night sky and it got darker you could see millions of stars. I’m not sure I’ve seen a sky that dark, or if I have very few times. You can’t even pick out constellations when the sky is that dark.
We spent about an hour outside getting pictures and doing the time lapse photos. I looked at mine after it was done and it looked pretty good. It was kind of cold so we did some yoga poses to stay warm while we waited. It actually worked. I was pretty warm after doing a few things.
It was about 9 PM when we decided to go back to the tent since it was freezing outside and I was tired. Even though I get 8 or 9 hours of sleep each night because it gets dark so early, usually around 5:30 PM, it makes you think you should be in bed.
I spent about an hour writing my journal entries for the night. Andy wanted to get more pictures so while I was writing he was outside taking pictures of the tent in the dark. The previous night in the tent I was a little cold on my toes and legs, so I decided I would put my pillow at the end of my sleeping bag for warmth. I also took my pants off and put them at the end as well. I figured the less air in the my sleeping bag the better, and if my feet got cold the pillow would help protect them.
The sleeping bag is made so that you don’t have to wear a lot of clothes and you can still stay warm. If you wear too many you will sweat which will cause you to be cold. We will see tonight if this works. I decided around 10 to go to bed. Andy said I fell asleep right away.