This weekend I had the joy of visiting Mt. Cook National Park. Standing at 3,754m (or 12,316ft), Mt. Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. And it is incredible. When we first arrived on Saturday we couldn’t see any mountains through the clouds and sprinkling rain, but we could still hear the glaciers cracking off and rumbling down the mountains far above us.
We drove out into Hooker Valley and found the campground and trailhead. We walked about an hour and half on the Hooker Valley track to a glacial lake. Slowly, as we walked, different bits of mountains were exposed through the clouds until we realized we were completely surrounded by incredibly huge, majestic mountains that we could only see the snow covered bases of.
Huge icebergs were floating in the lake and the glacier rested at the far end beneath Mt. Cook. The clouds made the views more dramatic, but I wished I could have seen the whole mountain. When we were walking back, the sun started to come out for a bit and I turned around and saw one of the lower ridges of Mt. Cook peeking out.
After our hike we decided to check out the nearby village. We stopped in the visitors center, which was along the only road in the whole village, only to find that it had closed at 4. One of the signs said the nearest ATM was in Twizel, and some of the group needed cash, so we decided we’d go check out Twizel and get food there figuring it couldn’t have been that far back. Well, it really was pretty far back, but by the time we realized that it wasn’t worth turning back around. It was about a 40 minute drive, but we found a really fun little cafe called the Razza to hang out in.
One strange thing about restaurants in New Zealand is that they almost all have a full Chinese food menu no matter what type of food is advertised. This cafe was not an exception, with the classic burgers, fish and chips, and Chinese food. It was a raffle night and it was definitely the place to be in Twizel on a Saturday night! It seemed like the whole town was in there watching the Rugby games and competing in the raffle. Kristin won a caramel chocolate bar with her one and only raffle ticket. We ended up staying there for almost two and a half hours, all the while dreading the cold of camping.
We headed back to the campsite in the Park after dark. We had begun to set up our tent earlier in the day only to see a sign warning that the birds will destroy/attack unattended tents. So, we set up our tent in the dark, keeping an eye out for the sinister birds the whole time. There were a few camper vans at the campground, but we were the only ones in a tent. And for good reason. It was freezing. We woke up to a tent and car covered in a thick layer of frost. But we also woke up to clear blue skies and the sun shine sliding down the mountain tops high above the valley floor.
We did a short hike called the Tasman Glacier Walk up to a look out point on a glacial lake and glacier on the other side of Mt. Cook. We hung out up there enjoying the full views of the mountains and the sunshine on our faces for a while before heading back down to the car.
We stopped at Lake Tekapo on the way back to the East coast and went to the hot springs to fully unthaw ourselves from the night before. It was very relaxing and great to warm up after such a cold night with such a view of the lake and mountains. Then just 45 minutes outside of Dunedin we made a brief stop at the Moeraki Boulders.