Mr Beet’s appetite for penguin-spotting duly sated, we head back inland to take a look a Mt Cook. It is NZ’s highest peak, and although it is only about a tall as Mt Fuji, it is definitely only for proper mountaineers and not puny tourists, so we have no plans to climb it. We are here just to have a look at the snowy peaks, because Mr Beet loves mountains and hasn’t had his usual skiing holiday fix this year. We also get to look at another glacier. You would think that we would have seen enough big bits of ice by now, but this one is a bit different. Because of the geography, the melt-water from the Tasman Glacier doesn’t pour off into a river like at the Franz Josef and the Fox. It forms a lake, the lake-water then melts the glacier and big chunks break off to form floating icebergs. I never planned on seeing icebergs on this trip, so that’s quite exciting. We take a little boat trip on the lake and get to touch, taste and generally admire the ice.
Later that day we drive to Lake Tekapo. This is pretty much the middle of nowhere, which makes it a good spot for an observatory. If you live in London and then come to NZ, you will be amazed by how many stars you can see. So we signed up for a tour of the observatory where you get shown around the night sky and get to have a go on some of the big telescopes. The observatory in top of a mountain so it’s chilly by night, but they provide you with enormous padded jackets to keep you warm.
It was meant to be cloudy, but we were very lucky as it cleared just at the perfect time and visibility was great. There was no moon, which was good as to an astronomer the moon is just light pollution. We could clearly see the Milky Way and through the telescopes we got good views of Mars and Saturn. Astronomy is a pretty mind-blowing subject and we were well and truly impressed by some awesome statistics about the number, distance and size of stars that I immediately forgot, but which were very impressive at the time.
More pictures from Mt Cook on Mr Beet’s flickr page.