With blues skies and sunshine we set off towards Mount Cook, although it seemed to want to hide behind the clouds – it felt like the closer we got, the cloudier and greyer it became.
On arriving at Mount Cook Village, we parked up at the White Horse Hill DOC Campground ($13 pppn) and looked up towards the glaciers and mountains around us! After lunch and loaded up with energy we set off on the walk to Hooker Valley Lake. It is a fairly easy walk of 5km each way on a good path which unfortunately meant that it was fairly busy.
Despite the greyness and Gale force winds, the views were beautiful leading us to an unexpected sight….
Mount Cook Glacier comes all the way down to the end of the lake. It is difficult to see in the photos as the ice is black but the large lumps in the lake are bits of glacier that have broken away – an absolutely incredible sight.
Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, not sure which would have been best – we didn’t see any movement whilst we were there, although they do say that there are avalanches pretty much all the time you just have to listen out for them.
A sight I could have looked at all day but without all the other people, so we didn’t stay too long, heading back down to Ava. We timed it perfectly as no sooner had we arrived back to the campsite, the skies opened, leaving us to settle into the evening with Gale Force winds and spurts of rain…. but you still couldn’t deny that the views out the back of the motorhome were pretty impressive.
We woke to strong winds and rain again but bit the bullet and I went out for a run whilst Keith did his exercises inside! Probably one of the hardest runs I have had in a while possibly due to the altitude or maybe just the Gale Force winds against me on the last 2km stretch…. I felt like I wasn’t moving!!
The rain and wind were pretty localised around the campsite so after a short walk to the Kea lookout point – the views yesterday were far better – we headed a little way down the road to find the sunshine and ‘The Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier walk’.
Once again, we were blown away by the views. A mixture of the Mount Cook lower peak (on the left) and the Tasman Glacier, which again came all the way down to join the lake and the parts that had broken off. This time we were also able to walk out to where the river joined the lake and we had it pretty much to ourselves.
Feeling a little humble, we ate our lunch and then headed back towards the bottom of Lake Tasman where we parked up for the night in another spot with spectacular views looking back up at Mount Cook.
We chose this spot to be the base for some more walking so after a quick cup of tea, we headed up the hill to the Pukaki Kettle Hole Track, a short walk (5km circuit) but very beautiful.
As the evening set in the area we were parked up in got busier and busier with campervans, cars (which pretend to be self contained) and tents squeezing into every available space. I guess it is of no surprise really as the views were incredible and it was free, thankfully no-one blocked our views and the night was peaceful even though the van that parked immediately behind us had a very young baby in it.
We woke to a cloudy morning and a nice temperature (around 11 degrees) for a run and exercise. Both were enjoyable despite being watched by surrounding neighbours who obviously thought we were very strange and possibly slightly mad… we are used to it now.
By the time we were showered and breakfasted the clouds had started to lift and the sun had come out as we set off Northwards on the Te Araroa path, another lovely 12.5km each way with yet another beautiful spot for our lunch.
Conscious that you are probably bored of beautiful photos of Mt Cook we hit the road again, moving all of 40km further North East to Lake Tekapo to empty and refill the tanks before finding a little spot at the NZMCA which is in the forest right on the lake ….. not too bad if we don’t say so ourselves….
Lake Tekapo – or more specifically, the 430,000 Hectares of the skies above Lake Tekapo – are defined as the Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve, one of only four of its kind in the world and on Saturday night we were lucky enough to have beautiful clear skies which were alight with a mass of stars – absolutely amazing.
After a good nights sleep we set off into Lake Tekapo village for a look around and an interim stock up of the food cupboards. The village is tiny with only around 400 inhabitants, although there are a lot of new houses being built mostly populated by tourists as the village offers access to ski-ing in the winter and water sports and hiking in the summer. It does however have the compulsary five cafe’s, a Chinese restaurant and a reasonable four square supermarket…. we passed on the Chinese restaurant but along with the supermarket, found a cafe to suit our needs!
Passing briefly by the ‘Church of the Good Shepherd’ (above), which probably is one of the most picturesque churches I have ever seen, we headed back to the motorhome before the skies opened, enabling us to have a few quiet hours of catch up. By 4:30pm it was all clear though, so we set off around the Cowan’s Hill Walkway which is a lovely 4km circuit along the lake shore and up above the village, providing beautiful views…. you would never have guessed that it was tipping it down half an hour beforehand.
The cloud came back in later in the evening and it absolutely chucked it down overnight with the temperature also dropping to 8 degrees leaving us with a grey, cloudy, cooler start to the day. Instead of going up high, we opted to do a lower level walk along the eastern shoreline which was also part of the Te Araroa track, a lovely peaceful 25km walk there and back…. with a few Merino sheep for company along the way.
The sun eventually pushed its way through the cloud and by about 5pm we were properly warmed, enough to leave the door open for a bit…. we shouldn’t complain, we are at 710m altitude.
Last night was another clear night with an amazing sky, when you are blessed with something as beautiful as that you don’t mind the temperature dropping dramatically overnight and to be fair, this morning it was sunny and about 10 degrees by 8am, so not too bad really!
After a nice run (Me) and a bit of exercise (Keith), we headed round the shoreline to walk up Mt John. Mt John is a hill which sits at just over 1000m on the edge of Lake Tekapo. It hosts the Observatory and also has a lovely cafe at the top with beautiful views.
We walked up the short steep route, around the summit and then came back down along the shoreline – a lovely walk, taking in some fantastic views over the whole area.
With less than a week until we give the motorhome back, tomorrow we leave the mountains and head back to the coast. For me, this last week has probably been the most diverse and stunning so far, although each and every week has brought different scenary and experiences – all of which have been fantastic….. hopefully the next – and last – week in New Zealand will have its own surprises!