Oct 26th- 27th
The drive from Queenstown up the centre of the South Island to Mt Cook on the State Highway 80 took us just under 3 and half hours. We passed by the town of Twizel then stopped off on the way to marvel at the scenic Lake Pukaki, the road leads to Aoraki/Mt Cook Village which is situated near by. We stayed at another DOC campsite, as usual the only tent, with a few camper vans around. The toilets were fine here, and the plot of land very pretty with views of snow capped mountains all around and only $6pp.
We headed straight out to walk the Hooker Valley Track located inside Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park which was a 13km walk along untouched land, with picturesque icebergs, glaciers and majestic mountains crossing the Hooker River on swing bridges and trekking all the way to the end of the track where we met the glacier lake and had stunning views of Aoraki/Mount Cook. The return walk took around 4 hours and we had spells of feeling hot with the walking, then drizzle came down and at the glacier lake you could feel a drop in temperature. Luckily we had brought our backpacks and along with water and snacks we had put in an extra waterproof jacket.
Interesting fact; Aoraki / Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand. Its height since 2014 is listed as 3,724 metres, down from 3,764 m before December 1991, due to a rockslide and subsequent erosion.
We were tired after our walk and had a nice night being cosy in the tent. In the morning we were perplexed at what the markings were on the onside of the tent, it looked wet and had some shapes forming, upon unzipping the tent and peering out we screamed in excitement and amazement, there was snow falling all around us! We hadn't seen snow in New Zealand before and were also intrigued that we hadn't felt it drop in temperature, our cosy Katmandu sleeping bags certainly did work.
Packing up the slushy tent wasn't as much fun mind you, then we stopped off at Aoraki village and meandered through the museum that was there, whilst keeping out of the snow.
Still snowing we headed to Tasman Lake located nearby and a short uphill climb. In the early 1970s, there were several small meltwater ponds on the Tasman Glacier. By 1990, these ponds had merged into Tasman Lake, as the Tasman Glacier melted. You can take a tour around the icebergs on the Tasman Lake on a small inflatable boat.
After all the fun at New Zealand's highest mountain it was time to drive on up to Lake Tekapo...