Takapō / Lake Tekapo is known for its huge vistas, clear nights and lack of light pollution. The glaciers in the headwaters grind rocks into a fine dust on their journey down towards the lake. The resulting particulate, called “rock flour,” is suspended in the water and causes the magnificent turquoise. hotographically it is a spectacular area with numerous back roads leading to obscure valleys and mountains.
From Ōtehīwai / Mt John it is possible to look out over most of the basin as well as over the small offshoot lakes (Takamana / Lake Alexandrina and Whakarukumoana / Lake McGregor) . Autumn brings a sublime orange. apricot light and a wonderful multi shaded blue that offset the turquoise of the waters.
Ōtehīwai (Mount John) is the small mountain at the south-western corner of Lake Takapō (Tekapō) where the popular Mount John Observatory is located. Ōtehīwai was an ancestor on the Ārai-te-uru waka that capsized near Matakaea (Shag Point) on the Otago coastline. After the capsize, many of the passengers went ashore to explore the land, but needed to be back at the waka before daylight. Many did not make it, including Ōtehīwai, and were transformed into many of the well-known geographical features of Te Waipounamu.
Takapō, which is now incorrectly known as Lake Tekapo, is the second-largest of three roughly parallel lakes running north-east along the north edge of Te Manahuna (Mackenzie Basin). Takapō was one of the lakes dug by the Waitaha explorer Rākaihautū with his kō (Polynesian digging stick) named Tūwhakaroria. After arriving in the Uruao waka at Whakatū (Nelson), Rākaihautū divided the group into two. Rākaihautū led his group down the middle of the island, digging the freshwater lakes of Te Waipounamu, and his son, Rakihouia, led the other group down the east coast. Along with the adjoining lakes of Takamana (Lake Alexandrina) and Whakarukumoana (Lake McGregor), the wider Takapō area was an important part of the extensive food gathering area of Te Manahuna (Mackenzie Basin) that was tribally renowned for tuna (eels) and weka.