Timaru. Star gazing on a budget in New Zealand. Kiwi Observatory.
After leaving Mount Cook we drove straight to Timaru. Before that we stop by Lake Tekapo and I couldn't believe that this lake was even more blue than Lake Pukaki. Maybe it was only that day, maybe the sun made the lake look like that. But it was beautiful.
We made another stop at Three Creeks, Vintage Garage Decor store. It is locates in Burkes Pass, between Lake Tekapo and Kimbell. It is such a cool place selling vintage furniture, decors and many other things. There are many vintage looking cars and cool spots for interesting photos.
We reached Timaru in the afternoon. Timaru is a cute city with rolling streets, small cafes, stores, beach and parks. We started the exploration with a Caroline Bay park. I was excited to see palm trees as there are not so many in a lower South Island.
There is an aviary in a park, where you can see many parrots, pheasants and other birds.
There is also a Botanic Garden, with trees, flowers and greenhouses. We relaxed in a freshly cut grass and took a walk around the city.
The city is famous for their penguin colonies that every night come home to the beach. People usually come and wait for them returning from the day hunting in the ocean. So were we. But unfortunatelly we couldn't wait long enough and we had to leave before the penguins came.
We had booked a stargazing experience in a small, private observatory - Kiwi Observatory. It costed around 20 NZD per person (or even less) which is very budget friendly compared to other bigger and more commercial Observatories.
You can contact them HERE and ask about prices.
Sky in New Zealand is so much different than in Europe. It also appears much darker; therefore, stars are so much brighter here than in Europe. It is easy to explain that, because the light pollution is so much bigger in Europe or other big continents. New Zealand is pretty far from everything in the middle of a dark ocean.
I was shocked the first time I saw the nightly sky here. I just couldn’t stop staring. The longer I looked, the more I saw. New Zealand is one of the best countries for stargazing. It was also one of the best parts about living in a car. Every night before falling asleep, I opened the car door and stared at the stars while laying in bed. Milky Way looked so bright and it was very common to see a falling stars. I saw them almost every night when there's a clear night (no wonder most of my wishes comes true :D ). Locals told us, that often you can see International Space Station crossing the nightly sky. How awesome is that???
So we arrived and a lovely elderly couple greeted us. They showed us around, told us about the two telescopes they have and the history about the whole observatory and how it was built. They were very knowledgeable and showed us little video samples as well. They are provided a lot of information about stars, galaxies and space in general. We got to see a lot of stars including my favorite Dog star (I looove dogs :D ) or Sirius, which is the brightest star in the night sky.
We got to see all kinds of nebulas and star clusters, including Arches Cluster, the densest known star cluster in the Milky Way.
They told us about stars what you can see in NZ, and how people managed to guide themselves by the stars. There is no Polar star on this side of the world so they had to find other ways to see which way is the South Pole. The whole Experience was very wonderful.
! Before you book your stargazing experience, remember to check the forecast. The less clouds the better. Also check the moon phases. Although full moon is beautiful it is also very bright and makes it harder to see other space objects, like clusters, individual stars and nebulas.