Wednesday, 5 October 2011

NZ travelogue: Drinking in the Milky Way

The second shock we encountered in New Zealand was that although technically you could be well within the town limits, certain roads may not be lighted at all. For example in Twizel, we were confronted with roads without any street lights as we made our way back after dinner to our cottage along the North West Arch. Luckily, we had the GPS to guide us back without incident but even then, we had to inch our way slowly through the dark in order to find the entrance into the compound.

But the pitch darkness had its advantage too because there is no light pollution. I think it was about nine o'clock at night when I decided to brave the cold and step outside our cottage. I put on my jacket, slid open the glass door and stepped onto the lawn. Everything around me was dark except for the lights from the cottage.

Then instinctively, I turned my eyes upwards and the wonderful sight of the Milky Way in the southern sky hit me right there and then. As my eyes began to get more accustomed to the darkness, more stars appeared until a whole swathe of twinkling stars stretched from one end of the sky to the other.

As this was something to be shared, I called out to my wife to put on her thickest clothes - and jacket - and join me outside. It's something you won't regret seeing, I assured her, as I knew that she'd preferred to be warm inside the cottage than freeze outside. You'll never see this back home in Malaysia, I added. It was like waiting a lifetime but eventually, the door slid open and she joined me.

For a long while we stood outside, looking upwards. We peered here and there, trying to locate the Southern Cross. There was a formation that looked like that constellation but I couldn't be sure. But ultimately it didn't matter to us because more importantly, the sheer enjoyment of the brightest and clearest night sky was more meaningful to us than just one constellation. 

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