New Zealand - Mt.Cook
Trip Start Dec 05, 2005
124Trip End Ongoing
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Wanaka is a larger town than Arrowtown and lies about another 90 minutes north of Queenstown. Apart from being on the edge of Lake Wanaka, it has a number of other attractions to keep visitors busy for a few hours
Another room which we found really fascinating was a false perspective room which gave the person standing at one end the illusion of being much smaller than the person at the other end - simply using angles and a slanted floor and ceiling (PIC). This was a technique used to great effect in the 'Lord of the Rings' movies.
A second slanted room disorientated us both and made it look as if we were standing and walking diagonally (PICS) - even the snooker ball defied gravity! (VID)
Before leaving Andrew decided to use the communal roman toilet (PIC) and then test his strength against a building teetering on the edge of collapse! (PICS)
Wanaka town is another in similar style to Queenstown, with a very alpine resort atmosphere. The lake there was pretty but nothing more so than many of the others we had seen thus far
Onwards to Mt Cook we stopped at Lake Pukaki, which runs alongside the only road from Tekapo to Mt.Cook. The lakes characteristic aquamarine glow was in full effect as the 'rock flour' carried down from the nearby glaciers reflected the suns rays and created the brilliant colours typical of New Zealand's glacial lakes (PICS).
We stayed overnight at Glentanner Park - about 22km south of Mt.Cook. There is only limited accommodation at Mt.Cook and as a result it is regularly fully booked and very pricey - around $300 a night minimum. Our room was a simple room with a basin and toilet, with 5 sets of bunk beds! We were the only ones in the room so could spread our stuff out over the many empty beds, but best of all the view was superb (PIC).
The following morning we completed the journey to Mt.Cook village and pulled up at the tourist information to meet our tour group for the glacier boat trip. No sooner did we reach the meeting point than we discovered that the 10am tour had been cancelled due to poor weather. It was a bit drizzly but we still thought it would go ahead - evidently not! Slightly dismayed we managed to book ourselves onto the 12 o'clock trip and hoped that the weather would improve in the following two hours.
In the meantime we embarked upon a walk that was recommended to us by a guy who ran the local kayaking business - he had also had to cancel due to the weather but kindly pointed us towards a walk that would give us a view of a glacier even if the boat trip didn't go ahead
Luckily, by 12 o'clock the sun had started to burn through the low lying mist and the weather started to clear. The boat trip was on and we joined 16 other people on the 'Glacier Explorer' trip. After a short bus trip and a 20-minute walk we reached the lake (PIC) at the head of the Tasman Glacier - the largest glacier in New Zealand at around 75km in length.
Two boats waited for us at the edge of the lake to take us up close to the hundreds of icebergs that were floating in the 300m deep lake. The icebergs had broken off the glacier and although some of them looked immense (PICS), the bit we could see only accounted for 10% of each icebergs size - the rest was underwater. The water in the lake was only just above freezing, about 1-2 degrees so we made sure that we stayed inside the boat - though the guides did make us put our hand in the water and hold it there for 10 seconds to get a slight idea of what it might feel like to be in there!
The lake has only been present for about the last 20 years and is getting larger each year with the glacier currently retreating at around 100m each year. No iceberg lasts longer than 12-18 months before it melts completely and as a result to environment is constantly changing, even day-to-day with the wind blowing even the biggest icebergs around the lake as if they weighed nothing
We made our way to the face of the glacier, past many amazing ice structures. We could see them melting before our eyes and every now and then a huge clear lump of ice would pop up from a submerged ice shelf - luckily missing the boat in the process! Much of the ice was covered with stones and dust. This is called moraine and is the bits of mountain that the glacier has ripped up during its 75-metre journey from the neve at the very top. The neve is where the glacier starts as snow and gets compressed over the years before flowing down the mountain just like a very slow moving river. The neve gathers around a 50m depth of snowfall every winter, of which about a 5m depth of ice is created. When the ice begins to melt at the end of the glacier, the stones and dust caught up in it are deposited on top of the ice, giving the grey coating that is so apparent (PICS). Some rocks as big as cars are ripped up by the glacier and balance precariously on the edge of the icebergs - ready to fall at any minute.
All in all the trip was well worth the wait and we were glad that we had made the return journey after the initial cancellation. It was pretty good value at $105 per person especially as it will look completely different if someone went next year and then will probably not be there at all within 20 years.