I dropped Julian off at the Christchurch airport (flew CHCH to Auckland to SF to NJ to BUF!). I start my journey here out solo, and mainly tent camping (which is super easy! most hotels/airbnbs were booked up around the holidays...not so easy. The next few weeks were incredible! There's a reason everyone says to spend the majority of your time in the South Island. I will attempt to show you how dramatic and beautiful the South Island is.
I camped at the Rakaia Gorge campground for the first night. The water was really that blue! I explored the area and had found my own special lunch place with nobody around.
I took the backroads to Lake Coleridge. I didn't have any cell coverage, but I had maps downloaded. This was a scenario where It looked like it could be cool based on the map, and was pleasantly surprised!
I went on some short walks in the area. I was the only one around for miles! Just me and the sheep/cows. You simply can't find that kinda peace and quiet in the states.
From Coleridge Lake, I drove a few hours west to get to Lake Tekapo. Talk about jaw dropping! I headed to Lake McGregor Campsite, set up camp and headed out on a "shingle" road to explore some of the area. I was truly in my happy place. What was even more exciting? The region is reknowned for lack of light pollution, which make it some of the darkest skies in the world! The weather here was pretty warm, despite being in the mountains.
I timed it perfectly to get a new moon while I was in the area. I also didn't have any clouds in the sky! I had to wait until about midnight for the skies to get completely dark. But when it did, it sure was mesmerizing! Above is my rental car, my little backpacking tent under a zillion stars! Unfortunately Milky Way season is in the summertime (same as the states) so I missed out on the galactic core, BUT did get to see some new constellations!
The drive to Lake Pukaki was about an hour. This was probably one of my favorite places in NZ. Hands down the most beautiful place I've ever been to. Despite the crowds at the village/campground/hikes, it didn't even bother me. It also spoiled me, and that nothing will ever compare to this place :D
The first day (above) I did the Hooker Valley Track. It was 70s or 80s and the sun burns fast here! There's apparently a big hole in the ozone over NZ/AUS that makes skin burn really fast. Skin cancer is a big problem in NZ.
More Crazy Dark skies! My older camera struggled on the star shots. I'm sure my newer cam would've handled the noise alot better. If you're curious on my setup, I used an Olympus EM1 and Laowa 7.5mm F2. 30 second exposures @ F2 ISO 1250. I used my MeFoto Roadtrip tripod and used a remote shutter as well.
This was Tasman Lake. You climb tons of stairs to get to this viewpoint, but it's worth it! There used to be a huge glacier there, but it has receded quite a bit.
Kea Point trail - I didn't see any Keas, but it was still incredible!