Front Row Seats

Trip Start Mar 11, 2011
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Flag of New Zealand  , Canterbury,
Monday, May 16, 2011


It's just gone 6pm and it's all dark inside Mr T. Dee is blogging on her mobile. Mario is reading by torchlight. There's still some light out but the curtains are drawn for insulation. Tapping on the keypad and the occasional whirring noise of the wind-up torch helps distract from the constant downpour and the scary-sounding winds out there. We suspect it's gonna be a cold one tonight!

As we approached Mount Cook village that afternoon, we caught a bit of a "tan in the van" and sunglasses were not optional. Our skin was still warm to the touch when up ahead we saw it... we were driving into a storm! Weather is notoriously changeable in the mountains but this was ridiculous. This was just the start of a very dramatic performance by Mother Nature...

First she gave Mr T a long overdue shower then it was straight to bed. She (rather keenly) rocked us to sleep and sang us a howling lullaby. After a while we got into the rhythm of it and fell fast asleep. We dreamt of better weather so that we could at least SEE the mountains that faithfully stood guard at our crib.

Next morning we were greeted by an eerie silence. The calm AFTER the storm? There was still the odd gust of wind rocking the casbah. The occasional drizzle hinted that it wasn't over yet. That drizzle turned to sleet, and the sleet into snow!

Should we abandon this crazy expedition and head to warmer climes? We prepared Mr T for departure. As we started our journey we saw it; the sun rearing its head in the distance, struggling to break through. A preview of what was to come? We're not weather experts, and we didn't know which way the wind was blowing. So we decided to pop by the info desk just to check if per chance the weather prediction had changed. The day before they told us the storm would continue for 5 days but Mother Nature clearly had other plans. This time they predicted finer weather for the next few days.

So we returned to the campsite to wait it out - napping, reading and playing backgammon. We were duly rewarded. The sun was long gone by 9pm but it was still as light as dusk (6pm these days). The starry sky was eerily lit and the snow on the mountains was literally glowing. It was a full moon! Even though it was freezing, we just wanted to be outside. We didn't want to sleep, partly because of all that napping, but mainly to enjoy the show!

We re-entered Mr T to prepare dinner. Hopefully the meat will help keep us warm, any excuse for us meat-loving Saffas. But what's that? Someone knocking at the window? It's a creature of some sort. Is it a cat on a cold tin roof?  The next night it was back, just in time for supper, this time its silhouette was clear in the moonlight. It cast a weird shadow and we could tell, those paws definitely don't belong to a cat. A possum? A ferret? I guess we'll never know which Mt Cook critter paid us a visit.

Mr T doesn't have a thermometer so we don't know how cold it got that night. It felt about fridge temperature; the wine got well-chilled standing on the table. We slept right through until 7. I awoke with a frosty nose and to answer Mother Nature's call. But what's this? The windows were all frosted up, on the outside AND the inside. And the world is totally covered with snow! Oh, wow, it was breathtaking! The sequel to the magical night we just had.

With the sun out, it meant the activities were running again. We secured spots on the iceberg kayaking adventure, their last trip of the season before the lake freezes over. It was a great activity day, sunny but cold. Kayaking amongst the icebergs on a glacial lake with Mt Cook backdrop was awe-inspiring. We also got some unreal shots after when we did the Hooker Valley track, a 4 hour hike. We were out until dusk, and caught Mother Nature's grand finale - the pinkest sunset I've ever seen with the strangest cloud formations over the mountains. We had a hard time deciding on a short list of pics. But they'll never really do justice.

Now for another chilly night...
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