Time spent with beautiful Mt Cook

Trip Start Sep 22, 2011
Trip End Aug 11, 2012

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Where I stayed
Parklands Alpine Tourist Park, Twizel
What I did
Mount Cook
Moreaki Boulders

Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, December 13, 2011

On Sunday morning we again relished the comforts of waking up in a big double bed. After repacking the car and thanking Russell and Noeleen profusely for their kindness in letting us stay with them, we headed off north again. Our first stop off was at Moreaki Beach to see the famous Moreaki Boulders. Just along the beach from the car park are a random set of giant, spherical rocks. There is a group of about 20 or 30 of them just lying in the sand. The way sea has worn them away makes them look a lot like giant eggs. Some had cracks forming and others had split completely. I wasn't expecting much than some rock in the sand, but nevertheless, they were pretty cool to see and we got some decent photos too.
Continuing up the coast road we eventually reached Omaru. This is the little town where our friend Sonya, from the South America tour was from, so we thought it only right to stop in for a fish and chip lunch. Just after Omaru we turned inland and headed for the mountains. The drive was again stunning and we followed the river and passed a few more beautiful lakes. On reaching Twizel we set up our little tent, had a wander around the shut town centre and chilled out reading our books outside for the evening. Tonight's sleep was definitely going to be a little colder than last nights, and a lot less comfy.

Monday morning we drove north from Twizel towards Mount Cook, or Aoraki as it is known in the Mauri language. For those who don't know, Mt Cook is New Zealand's highest mountain. The drive from Twizel to Mt Cook village took around 45 minutes, but along the way we stopped off to take some photos of Lake Pukaki. The view was amazing with the almost turquoise coloured waters stretching off into the backdrop of the mountain range. Peter's view point was a great place to stop on the way back for photos. 
When we reached Mt Cook Village we found that the weather had come in off the mountains and it was cloudy and drizzling. The forecast said that it would possibly clear up later in the afternoon and so we decided to pass a little time wandering around the information centre before driving out to see the Tasman Glacier. The viewing point for the glacier was down a long gravel road, on which we had to drive stupidly slow if we didn't want to be shaken to death. The car's suspension wasn't up it the challenge of gravel roads. Once out the car we climbed up to the higher viewing point and saw the massive glacier stretching from the lake at the bottom, all the way back up the mountain valley. We could also see a few icebergs floating around in the lake and so we heading down to the lower track to get a closer look, and waste a little more time as the clouds were still looming above. Once back at the visitor centre in Mt Cook village we had lunch, I had a sleep and Alex wandered around the info centre again. I joined her later and found there was a really interesting exhibit about the history of climbing the mountains in the area. By the time we reappeared from the centre the clouds had begun to lift and so we headed out to do the Hooker Lake walk. This walk took a few hours to complete, but was lovely and flat and included a couple of huge swing bridges. The views along the way and out over Hooker Lake at the end were beautiful. At a couple of points along the way the clouds parted enough for us to see the top of Mt Cook, but never for very long. Despite this the mountain was massively impressive and actually came out into full view as we reached the end of the walk at glacier face on the lake-front. The walk back was along the same route that we took there and we were throughly worn out by the time we got back to the car. After the walk we simply headed back to the campsite in Twizel for some dinner and a good night's sleep. The weather forecast was looking better for the morning and so we thought if it was a good day we'd come back to Mt Cook and do another one of the many walks.

As it turned out, the forecast had truly underestimated the improvement in the weather. It was a stunner of a day! With the blue skies and sunshine we decided to head back to Mt Cook and tackle the Sealy Tarns track for a different view of the valley. We quickly realised though that this wasn't going to be a gental walk toward the lake, but instead a 'climb' up the surrounding mountain side, or at least that's how it felt. The track wound it's way up the hill side at a very steep incline and some of the steps were huge. We actually commented on how it reminded us of the Inca Trail, and we were very glad that we were only climbing up and down for a couple of hours and not for a full day. After an hour and half of trekking uphill we reached a lookout point and stopped for a sit down and snacks. We hadn't quite reached the hut that marked the end of the trail, but as we still couldn't see it and we could see what we had left to climb, we talked ourselves out of it. The day was already a scorcher and we were very sweaty and knackered, but loving it. The walk up had been tiring, but the views from the top were absolutely amazing. From the lookout we could see all the way down the valley, up Hooker's glacier, all the way up to the base of Mt Cook. There still wasn't a cloud in the ski and the view of Mt Cook was beautiful. It's just something about the mountains, we could have stayed looking at that view all day. 
The route back down only took an hour and because we had set out quite early in the morning we kept passing people who were just starting. That definitely cheered us up as they would ask if it was a long way to the top. 

Back down in the village we sorted ourselves out with some lunch before meeting up with James and Sophie again. We hadn't had a chance to say goodbye to them in Queenstown and so it was really nice to see them again. They were staying at the hostel in Mt Cook village. They were heading out to do one of the walks in the afternoon and so we didn't stay long. We on the other hand are now heading off further up the road towards Tekapo. We should be there this afternoon, just in time for a well earned beer or two.

Hope you are all well and still enjoying the blog entries. 
Miss you all
Paul and Alex

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