28th February 2014, Friday
Today we would be heading for a 3-hour drive to Lake Tekapo, which spans a distance of 255km from Queenstown. We would be spending a night at a small town called Tekapo, where it is one of the best stargazing spots in NZ hence the main purpose for our trip there. Tekapo is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve, which is ultimately part of the International Dark Sky Reserves around the world.
But first, a goodbye to our lodge that has served us well for the past 3 days…
And then a quick stop to Queenstown central before starting our drive. Not saying goodbye to Queenstown yet for now as we would be coming back on the last day for souvenir shopping and to catch our return flight.
Starting off our long drive with a Bismillah and a prayer for Allah to keep us safe throughout the journey, InsyaAllah. Du’a for protection against danger: “In the Name of Allah with His Majestic name none can harm you through the skies or earth. For Allah is All-Hearing and All-Knowing.”
50 minutes into the drive, we made our first stop at Cromwell; 55 km from Queenstown. There is a supermarket, petrol kiosk and washrooms at most stops on the road. So we took a short break to stretch our legs and explore the area. Another hour later we reached Omarama, another stop in our journey. However, it was also here that a hail storm started to fall! Hubs and me thought it was normal rain… until we were hit by small ice cubes and discovered that they were hailstones. After about 15 minutes, the hail storm stopped but it was then replaced by intermittent rain which unfortunately got heavier as we drove along.
We had no choice but to continue with the journey. We could not possibly stop halfway for a long period of time as it would delay our arrival to Lake Tekapo. So even though we were terrified, we made lots and lots of du’as and selawat all the way. Alhamdulillah, Allah kept us safe and sound. Always remember that Allah is here, there and everywhere. It’s Allah’s lands you are traversing on, so leave it to the One in-charge, the Owner of the roads, trees and mountains.
Another hour of driving in the rain, with a last stop at Twizel and we’ve finally reached the town of Tekapo. It was still raining heavily when we reached Tekapo central, and we’ve never been more relieved to reach this town, Alhamdulillah.
After a brief rest in the car, we proceeded deeper into Tekapo towards Lake Tekapo Cottages, our lodging for the night.
And guess what! As soon as we reached the vicinity Lake Tekapo Cottages, it started to snow!!! We were checking in when Steve, the guy at the reception pointed to us, “Hey look! It’s snowing! Like Christmas!” It had only stopped raining a while ago so we were ecstatic when we saw that true enough, little drops of snow had started to slowly fall… it was such a beautiful sight SubhanAllah. It felt like a reward for us from Allah for going through the challenging drive, and I will never forget this moment InsyaAllah.
Then Steve showed us the way to our lodge…
And this is our cottage, the very cozy Potting Shed. It was just as described by the website; “The Potting Shed is more of a studio/cabin layout with double bed, and bathroom. TV, toaster and jug supplied (no major cooking facilities). This cottage is small, but nicely furnished and comfortable. There are dishes supplied for takeaways or a light salad type meal.”
The rest of the evening was spent exploring our surroundings. First stop – a few minutes walk and we’ve reached the lake, looking as breathtaking as always.
Scenery overload… everything’s just so beautiful. SubhanAllah.
Nearer to the vicinity of our cottage, lies some of the other different types of cottages housed by Lake Tekapo Cottages.
One of the wonderful things about this cottage is that the owner loves flowers so much that she even has her own flower garden at the cottage, which she plants and maintains herself!
There are even benches and picnic chairs for you to just rest and relax here…
After dinner, we headed to the surrounding of the Church of The Good Shepherd, in which the area is one of the best spots for stargazing at Lake Tekapo. It was really dark by then and we were not allowed to use any kind of artificial lights (so flash lights and smartphone brightness were a no-no, only red lights were allowed) as part of conserving the natural brightness of the (dark) sky. You could also go up to the Mt. John Observatory for a better view, but we decided to just stick to the church area which was just a 5-8 minutes walk from our cottage.
This is how the church looks like at day time though.
And this is how it looks like when we came, except it was a little cloudy so slightly less bright, but still bright nonetheless.
(Image source: Telegraph UK)
During the day the skies are blue and clouds float aplenty. But as night unfolds, the scene changes into dark purplish blue filled with a thousand glittering stars. The Southern Hemisphere allows for a much higher visibility of stars and if you’re lucky, you get to see some planets floating by. And Alhamdulillah, we were fortunate enough to see planet Mars appear, looking like an orangey non-blinking dot amongst the sparkling white ones (while stars have a blinking effect, planets do not). We also saw planet Venus as well as the Sirius star (which Allah specifically mentions in Surah An-Najm, ayat 49) and Orion’s belt, thanks to Google Skymaps which we used to locate the stars and planets and their names.
SubhanAllah it was such a beautiful, amazing, surreal experience. Plenty of moments for reflection… Plenty of verses Allah has mentioned in the Quran on stars and the constellations…
“And it is He who placed for you the stars that you may be guided by them through the darknesses of the land and sea. We have detailed the signs for a people who know.” ~Surah Al-An’am, verse 97
“And We have placed within the heaven great stars and have beautified it for the observers.” ~ Surah Al-Hijr, verse 16
“That He is the Lord of Sirius (the Mighty Star)” ~Surah An-Najm, 49
“Indeed, We have adorned the nearest heaven with an adornment of stars“ ~Surah As-Saffatt, 6
“Blessed is He Who made constellations in the skies, and placed therein a Lamp and a Moon giving light;“ ~ Surah Al-Furqan, 61
Alhamdulillah for the experience. Stargazing at New Zealand… check!
The next day we would be heading to our next destination, the wonderful town of Wanaka.
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