# Come Fly With Me...#

Trip Start Nov 09, 2011
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Trip End Ongoing


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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Tuesday, February 21, 2012

After such an amazing arrival yesterday evening we set off once more wondering what lies ahead of us. Soon after leaving our overnight campsite we pass the entrance to the Mount Cook Observatory. The gate had been closed when we passed it last night, but is open this morning. We climb the steep winding road up the 4km to the top for the most rewarding of views across Lake Tekapo, the surronding hills and the basin below us - flat and strecthing out far into the distance. Around us a number of telescopes hidden under their protective domes. The site has been well chosen high up with extremely clear views of the sky. No light polution anywhere near. The Observatory is part of one of NZ's universities.

We drive on to the Mount Cook lookout on Lake Pukaki described in one of our books as 'the best view in New Zealand'. We arrive shortly after midday and the view to be honest is nothing spectacular. The grey clouds hanging on the hills and mountains that surround the basin. The lake is an incredible colour (which apparantly is all to do with the crushed rock that is thrown out from the base of the glaciers). We get some lunch in the van looking out up the lake. Slowly as we sit there the clouds begin to lift and bit by bit unveil their hidden gems. Mount Cook the highest peak in New Zealand shows through the cloud first. Initially just the tip and slowly as the clouds seem to melt away we see more and more of this magnificent mountain. Gradually more peaks appear and yes this is sure the most magnificent view in all of New Zealand. Looking up the lake, through a break in the lower hills that surround the upper reaches of the lake is revealed Mount Cook in all its splendour.

We turn off heading towards it. The road follows the lake as we head towards the source of its water. Mount Cook continues to play hide and seek with us as we twist and turn along the road. Each time it reveals itself larger than the time before. Annie says this is the first time she has seen a mountain, let alone one so resplendent, covered with snow, even though this is mid summer. As we reach the head of the lake there is another carpark / information centre. We stop to check out the best way forward. The large building also houses a cafe and is the base for one of the scenic helicopter services. They offer 20', 30' and 45' flights. The sky by now is bright blue and Mount Cook sits there tempting us out of the panoramic windows. Surely there will never be a better opportunity to experience such a trip. But which one? I think if we are going to do it we should take the longest flight. Whilst we chat about the options it is clear that a 45' minute flight is just about to leave - so this is it. I book the flight, Annie pops back to the van to grab the coats and in less than 10 minutes we are boarding the helicopter.

The ground crew direct Annie into the front next to the pilot and I resign myself to sitting in the back. But no as I approach I too am directed to sit up front next to Annie. Behind us the other 4 passengers sit. We soon lift off, slowly at first. We climb above the scree estuary at the head of the lake and head up the valley to climb slowly up the side of Mount Cook. The helicopter is more or less a gall bubble - we are able to look out ahead, to the side, above and below us. It feels as if we could put out our hands and touch the rock face and snow that lies all around us.

In places there have clearly been avalanches as the snow is almost vertical hanging above a sheer rock face below. In each gulley snow covered glaciers stretch out below us. We ride along the ridge that stretches out from Mount Cook to Mount Tasmin and beyond. The pilot points our sights along the way including a hut which climbers use before their final push to the summit. We then start to go down the other side and bank to the right to follow Fox Glacier that stretches out before us. On and on we go until we are nearly at the head of the valley - the pilot looking for a suitable place to land. We look at each other - is it possible. Then we spin through 180 degrees face back down the valley and slowly descend to land on the glacier. The pilot instructs us to stay put as he gets out to check we are in no danger then he comes around and beckons us out.

We climb gingerly down from the helicopter onto the snow and ice the lies everywhere around us. All the time the rotors of the helicopter continue to turn. The clouds seem to hang earily around the surrounding mountains that enclose the glacier valley. They look as though they will envelope us any minute, but somehow they just hang there a stones throw away. We all walk around and take photos of the scene. Nothing can quite prepare you for this. After about 10 minutes the pilot beckons us back on board. We had been led to believe that we would swap to the back for the return journey, but to our surprise and relief we are once again up front with the pilot. The other two couples apparantly a little too large for the cramped front seats.

Slowly we lift off from the snow and move slowly back down the glacier valley towards the upper reaches of Mount Cook. The valley is increasingly cloudy ahead of us so the pilot informs us we will return the same way. We circle and climb up the side of Mount Cook, over the top of the ridge and then begin our slow descent back down the valley to our base 15' away. When we finally come to rest at the foot of the mountain we look back at the awesome sight all around us. Our faces one huge smile from ear to ear. The most awesome experience of our lives, and one that we had not planned on, though had considered it.

We drove back to the car park at the end of the lake, had a meal and stayed their for the night. Enjoying for ourselves New Zealand's best view. We had experienced it in every way possible. What an incredible, amazing, awesome day.

(Annie..this was an incredible day...I have never seen anything so amazing, beautiful, natural, powerful,interesting and magical in my life.. i will always remember this day..from start to finish mount cook beckoned us..the weather was superb..and they had two seats to fill on the helicopter when we arrived...the right place right time again...and to go back to the lake car park and just stare at the mountain knowing earlier we were standing on it... the pictures will not show the awesomeness but i willl try.. )

We awoke the following morning with the hills, mountains and snow no where to be seen. We remembered someone yesterday saying that the view was the best they had seen for some years, and we wondered whether todays visitors would get even a taste of what we had seen and experienced, or would it choose to hide itself from everyone.

We have indeed been very lucky. A day like no other....
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Comments

fred on

Glad you had great weather for the helicopter flight as the forecast is not too good

Mark on

Now thats worth a week of Jam sandwiches. Glad you did something in style for a change ;) Great pics, reminds me of ski-ing. Stunning scenery. Keep posting.

John on

Looks absolutely awesome - have been following you as you travel around. Glad you are having such a wonderful time. John

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