Mount John rises steeply from the turquoise waters of Lake Tekapo. The strong and the fit can make their way up a steep path to reach the windswept, rocky summit. The less energetic can drive up a smooth, curving, tar-sealed road.
From up on Mount John the view is breathtaking. It’s a landscape solely of earth and sky. It is an earth of shadows, light, folds, seams, sharply contrasting colours, rivers, lakes, stands of trees, rocky outcrops, hills, cliffs and mountains. There are ribbons of road, threads of power lines and the thin filigree of a ski lift. The sky is a light, clear, infinite blue dome hung with great, thick luminous clouds and there’s something about it that reduces you to silent, motionless specks.
There is more to Mount John than the view however.
Firstly it is the site of the University of Canterbury’s Observatory and home to a team of astronomers who man the collection of telescopes which keep constant watch over our skies. Star of the fleet, so to speak, is MOA, a machine of unbelievable power and size. Every night they click away relaying the state of the firmament. Mount John Observatory offers fascinating tours – called Earth and Sky which explain the work of astronomers, the workings of the telescopes and best of all allow a look, through a telescope, at the earth and the sky. Fascinating by day, magical by night!
Secondly, Mount John boasts, according to Lonely Planet, the best place on the planet- the Astro Cafe. The food here, and the coffee too, are excellent, but really, it’s mostly a question of location, location, location!