New Zealand must do activity: Mount Cook Stargazing

Last week I did my quarterly review and it was incredible to reflect on all the changes that have happened in my life this year. So I thought I would do a Throwback Thursday to one of the most amazing experiences I had shortly before leaving New Zealand back in July.

Of course, July is Winter down under, so whilst my friends from the northern hemisphere were cheerily talking about the prospect of a long and warm summer, I was travelling to the snowcapped peaks of Mt Cook.

Mt Cook Stargazing

 

I was there to do the Mt Cook Stargazing Experience and I can hand-on-heart say that if you are ever in that part of the world, it is a must do. I’m known to be a bit hard to please sometimes (who doesn’t demand perfection every now and then? ahem), but I would truly give this experience 5 stars. I was completely blown away. Plus, it’s a handy stop off between Christchurch and Queenstown, so you’d really have no reason not to.

Attached to the in-the-middle-of-nowhere, zero light pollution hotel, is the Sir Edmund Hillary museum. Apparently, despite his own rather well known adventures, Mt Cook remained his favourite mountain. Which makes it pretty special when you think about it. I love the way his statue faces outwards towards it, with a faint sense of longing.

Mt Cook Star Gazing

 

Such longing is inspirational, but I’m not foolish enough to grab a set of crampons and go crazy climbing. I did manage to do a bit of a hilly walk though before the sun began to set. Which was amazingly beautiful in itself.

 

Mt Cook Stargazing

Once it is dark, part of the experience is an hour talk explaining the universe. I found it fascinating, and clearly everyone else in there did as well, regardless of age or culture. It was a great way to prepare for what lay outside, a short drive away.

As part of the experience, they set up astronomy telescopes to be able to see planets. The stars themselves need no such human intervention. The last time I saw stars like that, I was out in the middle of the ocean in a sailboat. The amount of light pollution on this planet is astounding and I’m sad that, despite all my travels, I’ve never been able to see a sky like that in the northern hemisphere. Without a proper night camera I couldn’t get a photo worth putting up here, so I will simply have to do my best to describe it.

Remember those huge pieces of black cardboard they used to have in school when you were a little kid? You’d put transparent glue on there and then throw silver glitter in what you thought was an artistic fashion, but was in fact too much to create anything but a mass of sparkle. Then you’d get that one kid who wouldn’t shake the pot gently over the paper, but instead fling it straight out with a stiff arm so there was just a thick line of glitter through the middle…

….that was the Milky Way I got to see that night.

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