Mount Cook, Lakes Pukaki and Tekapo!
After dumping our water and filling up with clean water and petrol we began quite a long drive to Mount Cook, across some stunning countryside. After driving for around 90 minutes the Southern Alps started to come into view, absolutely stunning. We drove along Lake Pukaki, a huge, amazingly blue lake, until we arrived at the Mount Cook carpark (which is near the base of the mountain).
There are a few treks around the base of the mountain, ranging from an easy 20 minute Kea spotting route to a 7 hour crampons, ice picks and certain death route. We had enough time to do the Hooker Valley walk, which was a 3 hours round trip. The highlight of the trek was the view of Mount Cook and the glacial lake below it. We were extremely lucky with the weather, blue skies and nice and warm (until the freezing wind blew!). The walk was absolutely beautiful!
Early rise to trek the Kea Point route, which was beautiful, quiet and windy but unfortunately we didn’t encounter any cheeky Keas! We then drove towards the Tamzin Lakes and Glacier and had a couple hours trekking around, we saw another glacier which has receded to the point of near invisibility but has a dingy light grey glacial lake with mini icebergs (the dingy-ness is due to the Glacial Flour, small rock particles moved around as the glacier recedes). Very beautiful though! We then walked around the ‘Blue Lakes’, which we are assured were once blue but now are green. Again this discrepancy is due to the receding of the glacier, the lakes used to be made up of glacial water and freeze over in winter, giving it a stunning blue colour but now the lake is made up of rain water only, not so stunning but super cold!
After our excursions in the morning we drove the length of Lake Pukaki, a huge beautiful blue lake surrounded by mountains. We stopped on the shores to admire it up close and we both tried some of the local fish delicacies - Jess had fresh salmon sashimi from the lake with soy sauce and wasabi, I had a chocolate-covered marshmallow fish! We ended in Twizel, a tiny town on the edge of the mountain range which had a coffee shop / bar / local shop / mini golf all in one, excellent.
After the brief refreshment stop we drove to digs for the night, a lovely stop at the bottom of Lake Pukaki with amazing views. We had a faint glimmer of hope that we could see the Southern Lights this evening (this hope is due to us being in a dark sky reserve and sightings, although rare, have been made from here!). We stayed up stargazing and parked the van so the back was facing south so we could keep checking through the night… but alas, nada.
A very fun day planned! A short drive to Lake Tekapo via our chosen free campsite for the night so we wouldn’t get lost when finding it in the dark this evening… we’ve really grown up out here.
Lake Tekapo is a beautiful sheltered lake which was beautifully blue and calm. The sky was clear and the sun was shining so there was only one thing to do… snow tubing!
Seemed that nobody else had had this idea as we pretty much got the slope to ourselves, lots of fun jumping down a snowy slope on a tube, being spun around to near sickness and pretending to be children again… after half of our allotted hour we’d had enough and went to the open air hot springs. Luckily the ticket we bought allowed for reentry to the springs so after a couple hours in the pool, sauna, steam room and plunge pool (brrrrrr) we headed back to the van for a very exciting lunch of super noodles and soup (trying to eat all the food we have left over!).
After lunch and some van admin we had a brief walk around the lake before we headed back up to the hot springs. Luckily the sky remained clear which meant we could see the stars from the hot pools. Whilst we showed off our knowledge of the southern hemisphere night sky to each other a friendly kiwi overheard us and showed us the International Space Station orbiting through the sky! Another quick steam and plunge then it was time to navigate to the campsite in the dark… and it turned out getting familiar with the route was a great idea… we are so wise.
A lovely curry, some star gazing and we polished off our rose before we bedded down for what was going to be a freezing night, temperatures hitting -10 degrees!