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Passing Pukaki

Our next logical stop would have been Christchurch but, because we were due to finish our trip there in a few days, we decided to bypass it and come back to it at the end. Instead, we decided to travel three hours inland to see Lake Pukaki.

Now, this lake isn’t just any lake. Surrounded by the stunning backdrop of colourful lupins and distant icy peaks, the lake is an astonishing milky turquoise colour.

Lake Pukaki gets its intense colour from ‘glacial flour’ - fine rock dust that’s suspended in the water. This dust is created by the movement of glaciers in headwaters, and eventually makes its way to the lake. Image source: AmazingNZ.com

Lake Pukaki gets its intense but milky colour from ‘glacial flour’ – fine rock dust that’s suspended in the water. This dust is created by the movement of glaciers in headwaters, and eventually makes its way to the lake. Image source: AmazingNZ.com

Unfortunately for us, there was a thick blanket of stubborn cloud covering the sun when we arrived, so – although the view was still beautiful – we couldn’t fully appreciate the unique colour of the lake.

Setting up camp right on the shore of Lake Pukaki, with a stunning backdrop of the Southern Alps

Setting up camp right on the shore of Lake Pukaki, with a stunning backdrop of the Southern Alps

Another reason we wanted to visit this area is because it has some of the purest dark skies in the southern hemisphere and is an official UNESCO dark sky reserve – which means it’s a spectacular place to see the stars. But with the clouds above blocking the view, we weren’t able to visit the Mount John Observatory nearby, which offers night-time stargazing.

The observatory is ideally placed at a high altitude (1000ms), which means less atmosphere interference with your view, and (apparently) it normally enjoys incredibly clear skies because of its position in the Mackenzie basin – in the rain shadow of the alps. Image source: centauri-dreams.org

The observatory is ideally placed at a high altitude (1000ms), which means less atmosphere interference with your view, and (apparently) it normally enjoys incredibly clear skies because of its position in the Mackenzie basin – in the rain shadow of the alps. Image source: centauri-dreams.org

On the bright side, the freedom camp site we stayed at was right on the shore of the Lake and, although there were plenty of other people enjoying the same view, there was more than enough space for everyone and waking up to this landscape was spectacular.

Waking up to the lake and the lupins

Waking up to the lake and the lupins

In the morning, we waited as long as we could for the cloud cover to pass, but we needed to set off for our next stop – Kaikoura. Just as we were leaving, slices of sunlight began to stream through the cloud and, where it touched the lake, a striking turquoise colour shone out.

Just look at that colour. It's like a swimming pool!

Just look at that colour. It’s like a swimming pool!

We left Lake Pukaki pleased to have glimpsed the beautiful colour that this lake is famous for. New Zealand has completely wowed us in terms of its glorious array of nature and where we were going next would turn out to be the icing on our New Zealand cake….

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