Just around the corner from the Caravan park we’re staying stands Mount John with the prestigious Mt. John Observatory atop. They do run night tours where you can view the night sky from the top of the mountain at night, and then view the far-away un-earthly bodies through their powerful telescopes. Mt. John sits around 1 Kilometre tall from the surface of the sea and has wide planes around it giving it vast clear sky making it a perfect place for observatory. The only thing that blocks the views is the clouds, and in these plains in the Shadow of the Great Southern Alps, they are scant.
The Observatory and the wide panoramic vantage point it provides
Due to being very tired, and also too late to book for tonights booking anyways, we had to miss out on this. I did kick myself for this a few times that night. We can’t have another chance at least this time as we can’t stay here another night- we have to be in Christchurch by early morning to catch our flights.
Anyways, we decided it’d be a waste if we came so far and didn’t even have a look at the observatory from outside, and so the next morning we decided to drive up to the observatory, have a coffee at their cafe and have a look around from the vantage point at the top.
Soon we realised that it was a huge mistake to drive the camper van up here- but not soon enough. As the road winds in curls reaching the observatory, it gets thinner and at places unstable at the edges. At the tricky curves and thin roads we often had to stop to let the oncoming cars pass at times, and on a very dangerously steep inclined road, a 2WD minibus with manual diesel engine that stalls ever so easily was so hard and scary to drive. If the gears didn’t engage and gain enough momentum to thrust the vehicle forwards in time, it’d be a free fall and then you realise that there are just a few shrubs and no trees or road-barriers if someone was to fall from this place. Also you can’t just over accelerate to overcome these hazards as the road up the front is too curvy and going a bit too fast may also mean you going down a ditch. This would have been a piece of cake drive even in a small weak car, but was no fun on this camper van. Also, Thank God we didn’t come here last night!
Anyhow, we prayed and drove away as turning around wasn’t even an option by this time as there was never enough space to turn this monster around anyways. We reached at the top and found the vistas up there were all worth it. (Just a figure of speech, I don’t think anything would be worth the risk we took)
Views of the Lake Tekapo from the top of the Mt. John
No Aliens here, Please
A few panoramas follow: Do click on the image to view larger image for a better appreciation
A Panoramic view of the observatory on one side
The other side of the observatory- overlooking the Lake Tekapo
The views of lake Tekapo from the Cafe at the observatory