Aoraki Mount Cook National Park

Going back to the times before all this started again….

Seda: We stayed on a roadside free camping ground near lake Cromwell. There was a decent toilet block which is the reason why we chose to stay there overnight. I did read on the reviews that it had wifi with coverage near the toilet blocks but I never thought for a moment it would be any use at all. Shockingly it was the best wifi we had in the whole country. Bestest everest!!!

We had a quick walk around the lake but I have to say, when you stay in a roadside free campground, it’s just about that – a free stay overnight. So, we left in the morning without spending much time there.

As we drove north, we saw some amazing landscape changes around us.

Eventually, there was a glimpse of an impressive looking mountain top. I knew it was “Mount Cook”… Imposing, awe inspiring and beautiful!

The journey there took us near Lake Pukaki with a colour that looked unbelievable. It was simply unique. It looked like a child had started experimenting with some colours for a painting adding a bit of green, loads of blue and a bit of white. I wondered how could the lake have such a colour and decided to check it out when we have internet next, not realising that would be a while! (Here is what I eventually found out; “The glacial feed to the lakes gives them a distinctive blue colour, created by glacial flour, the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers.”).

Ahead of us were snowy mountain tops, more glaciers and some long walks. As fascinated as I was about these natural beauties, I was growing apprehensive about the cold days ahead.

Andy: As we arrived at White Horse campground at the foot of Mt Cook is was blowing a gale. We thought this would pass, but how wrong we were. There were hundreds of other campers there, and in the end we had to move our camper between two much bigger ones to try and get some protection from the wind. Our car was literally bouncing and rocking in the wind.

There was a small building where people could take refuge from the rain and wind, but also cook their meals. We decided to do just that rather than struggle outside in the elements. I must say though, Seda’s idea of “using up some of the breadcrumbs” in our spanish omelette was highly debatable! The place had a bit of a classroom feel too as more and more people took shelter, but no-one really spoke. It was as if they were scared to make too much noise. All very odd.

Seda: It’s funny that at times where everyone was getting more and more aware of corona virus, this campsite didn’t provide hand wash in the toilets. Yes I appreciate that having flush toilets was an unlikely luxury to find so far from general civilisation but still for the money they charged us, they could surely afford a dollar’s worth of hand wash ?!

I always have my handwash with me so it wasn’t much of a problem. There was a rather funny moment though when a woman came out of a cubical, noticed me washing my hands and she started looking for the soap dispenser. She must have been sure that there would be one since I was washing my hands with a foamy soap, so clearly there would be one right?! She came and looked to my left, then my right and even under the sink. Eventually I decided to put her out of her misery and offered her some of mine…She was so pleased, it was as if I had just given her next week’s lottery numbers!

We stayed at this place because it is the most convenient place to do any of the walks around Mount Cook area and most of the walks even start from the campsite.

Andy: After a surprisingly decent sleep, despite the car bouncing around in the wind (maybe we felt rocked to sleep?), we got up and prepared to walk the Hooker Valley Track towards the glacier and lake. The walk took us about 90 minutes each way, but to be honest, it was pretty miserable because of the incessant wind. The walk takes you across 3 impressive suspension bridges before finally getting to the lake and glacier viewing point. By this time we were freezing cold and pretty fed up, but seeing the lake and glacier made up for it. There were some amazing pieces of ice floating in the lake too which looked like mini icebergs.

After we walked back to the campsite, we packed up and headed off. Not very far as it turned out, because just a few miles away was another short walk to yet another glacier. This was towards the Tasman Glacier and it was much more enjoyable, even if it was up about 200 steps! Again the view was amazing, with some extremely vibrant blues in the glacial ice.

Seda: Inspite of the initial plan been different, we decided to leave the White Horse campground and go somewhere with at least a phone signal, showers and less wind. There is something oddly uncomfortable about constantly facing tall icy mountains with tonnes of ice threateningly eyeing you! The real fun begins when the Sun goes down and the winds starts whistling around you. We are all so used to living in the cities, it’s hard to describe to you the darkness and the silence that we experience if we ever have to leave the car and walk to the toilet blocks at night. I often wondered at those times how we had so much that we just take for granted in our lives. Yes, I do often get wrapped up in philosophical thoughts on the way to and from the toilets at night.

Andy: When we hit the road again, we were headed for Lake Tekapo to have a look at The Church of the Good Shepherd. We’d read that it was a lovely little place, and the main road passes right by it, so why not. It’s such a quaint little place right next to the waters edge. I poked my head in thinking it can’t be a real church as it’s just so small, but it really is. There is seating for about 20 people and to my amazement, the vicar was sat behind the door as I entered and surprised me when he said hello!

We were now headed towards Christchurch and the last few days of our stay in New Zealand. On the way we stopped at the small towns of Fairlie and Geraldine for a night stay in each. They were quiet small towns but whilst in Geraldine we visited a pub. Although we didn’t know it at the time, it would be our last for a while. I just wish the beer was nicer had I known that! Everyone in the pub was sat apart from each other and so this was the first time we had seen people carrying out social distancing. We’d heard about it from the UK, but until that point things in NZ had been pretty normal.

Seda: Yes, the life was almost normal as everyone sat in that pub and enjoyed a drink or two. How strange it is that we are so far from those days now!

We’ll leave you now with these beauties for whom we had to stop the car for, run across the busy road to get a quick picture of…….just because!

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