I like to think that I have a good command of the English language, and have a wide swath of florid descriptives at my beck and call when writing about my adventures across the world. However, if you ask our wonderful New Zealand guide, Tia about my most oft used expression she would undoubtedly answer: “Wow!”
The visuals in this magical land are so dazzling, so striking, so sublime that there is no way to adequately explain. But I can show you.
The sky show was in full force as we awoke at The Hermitage Hotel, an iconic edifice nestled in a valley of the Aoraki Mount Hood National Park on the South Island. As is usual in New Zealand, many clouds scudded across the sky, their colors reflecting the rising sun’s rays:
At first the sun seemed to be making headway as the sky turned golden:
But as the Southern Alps it lit up as if made of gold, there was increased moisture in the air and a misty rainbow appeared. I guess that is fitting for isn’t a pot of gold supposed to be found at the end of a rainbow?
The battle between the rainclouds and the sun continued – to our delight:
We could have stayed to watch longer, but we had to move on. However, this was not our last confrontation with New Zealand’s rainbows. Another developing rainbow stopped us in our tracks – literally:
Stopping our Jeep turned out to be a majorly smart decision:
Not to be outdone by the daytime performance of clouds and rainbows, the night sky also has its jaw dropping show. As you will recall, I was very excited to not have a luggage weight requirement on this trip so I could finally pack my tripod. Why? The night sky above Aoraki has the distinction of being a UNESCO World Heritage Dark Sky Preserve. Here is the definition:
A Dark Sky Reserve is a public or private land possessing an exceptional or distinguished quality of starry nights and a nocturnal environment that is specifically protected for its scientific, natural, educational, cultural, heritage and/or public enjoyment mission of a large peripheral area.”
There are only a handful of reserves currently with this official status and Aoraki Reserve is among them. There are organized sky watching companies that will take you out to a deserted area away from the hotel which is devoid of all light pollution. They provide telescopes and other equipment as well as advice to get the best visual of the night sky.
Ah but those long white clouds that pervade all the skies of New Zealand often provide an impediment to seeing the stars and during my time in this area, the forecasts talked of not only clouds but storms. Despite this, I had opted to go on one of these tours but alas many had the same thought and it was sold out.
As they say often in New Zealand, no worries. Our lovely room at the Hermitage was on a top floor and also included a wide patio – so armed with my beloved Canon G3X and my tripod I ventured out late at night and after a number of “wow” comments set to work. Here are the results.
A few clouds appeared here and there but no worries:
My first photos were not ideal, but no worries – just had to adjust the time-lapse to capture Orion:
My view, while great was a bit obstructed as the hotel and its lights blocked a portion of the sky. No worries – part of the Milky Way was still visible:
I might have caught a shooting star on the right side: