18 April 2012

Hooker Lake [Mt Cook, New Zealand]

Mount Cook is a fairly straight shot from Queenstown, so we decided we would save the gas and hitch-hike. Thankfully getting a ride was easy, and we were cruising north in style after only after a few minutes waiting.

The journey was pretty spectacular through the Lindis Pass, but as soon as we got near Mount Cook the weather turned to crap. Our ride dropped us at the turn-off to the national park, where we managed to get another ride to the camp ground. When we got there we could not see a thing! There was thick cloud all around and the wind was blowing something crazy. So we set up camp and read for the afternoon. That night the wind was so loud that we couldn't sleep. I was sure the tent was going to rip or blow away; it was insane! So I did not have high hopes for being able to see the mountain for the two days we planned to stay.

Surprisingly the following morning was perfectly clear so we set out to explore the area. First up was Hooker Lake, a couple of hours walk from the camp site. The walk itself was beautiful, following an aqua blue stream up a valley surrounded by massive mountains. The trail ends at Hooker Lake, which is at the foot of Mount Cook. The lake itself was filled with massive ice-bergs, which is (apparently) quite rare for the middle of summer. I felt blessed to have witnessed it - quite amazing really. As the sun slowly melted the ice they would crack and break away, falling in to the lake.

In the afternoon we walked out to Kea Point, which again had stunning views of Mount Cook and surroundings.

The Tasman Glacier is a 15 minute car ride away from the camp ground. Problem: we didn't have a vehicle. So we decided we would hitch-hike around. Which was actually really easy. We ended up getting a ride with a nice older Scottish couple that were staying at Mt Cook village. Which was great as they were able to give us a ride back too.

The glacier itself was a little un-impressive. I guess mainly because you can't get anywhere close to it. The viewing spot is a few hundred meters away from the face. That and it is covered in gravel, so you cannot really see the ice underneath. But the lake below it is quite impressive, being an odd off-green colour and having a couple of MASSIVE icebergs floating around. You can see the size of one of them in the photo below with the boat along-side.

The next day we hitch-hiked back out of the national park with a nice German couple, who dropped us at the turn-off to the 'clay cliffs'. We managed to hitch out to the cliffs themselves, which were about 10kms down the road. An older woman and her grandchild picked us up, and we ended up walking out to the cliffs with them. Really nice people :)

The clay cliffs are these weird limestone formations. I think the best way to describe it is like a massive ant-hill... Or something along those lines.  Worth a visit.

From the cliffs we headed back to Queenstown. We got a ride with a really interesting couple from the US. They both worked at Yosemite National Park in California, one as a ranger and the other as a detective! A profession I would have never expected to be working in the park. It turns out that around 30,000 people sleep in the park every night, so it is like a small city. And it comes with all the problems a small city has, including crime. And there are the opportunists - "Oh, my wife slipped and fell down that huge cliff face! Dammit! Lucky I actually hated her guts and took out a massive life insurance policy!". Anyway, they were really cool and even dropped us right back at Jamie and Marees place.

After Queenstown we headed to Auckland, where a few days later I had to say goodbye to Julia. It was really sad and there were a few tears, but I'm sure we will see each other again sometime in the future.

I've just put together a wrap-up post for our South Island adventure, so check it out. I've now settled back in my home town of Gisborne with a steady job and all that boring normal stuff. Anyone that wants to pay me to continue travelling, writing and taking photos - I want to hear from you!

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