Woke to grey skies but decided to head back up to Mount Cook for another look anyway. As we left Twizel the clouds began to thin and by the time we hit Lake Pukaki the top of Mount Cook was visible. Yay! The further up the valley we went the better it looked and by the time we parked the car to begin our tramp the sky was clear! If we could only have three sunny days on this trip this is definitely one we wanted.
At 9:00am we began the Hooker Valley track, a ten kilometre tramp that would take us up to the Hooker Glacier at the foot of Mount Cook and back. The first couple of kilometres took us over the Hooker River twice on suspension bridges and past Mueller Lake but Mount Cook stayed out of view. Just past the second bridge we rounded a corner and there it was towering magnificently over the valley, looking superb in the morning light. If you ask me, it's the best view on the South Island, followed closely by The Remarkables at sunset. (North Island's best view btw, is looking over Lake Tarawera just past the Buried Village at Rotorua in the afternoon light.)
For the next few kilometres we walked straight towards NZ's highest mountain.
Mount Cook is 3,724m high. It was first climbed by three men from Christchurch on Christmas Day in 1894. Sir Edmund Hillary first climbed it in January 1948.
We crossed the Hooker River once more before reaching the lake at the glacier. The water in both the lake and the river is opaque white, because it's glacial, and this time we could walk down to the lakeshore and see an iceberg up close. It really is a magical place and I thoroughly recommend putting in the effort and doing this walk if you find yourself at Mount Cook on a clear day.
By the time we headed back the sun was getting high and the temperature had risen to 27 degrees Celsius. Typical of the crazy weather on this trip we found ourselves boiling to death in the Alps after nearly freezing further north on the coast.
Hard as it was, we said goodbye to Mount Cook and headed off for one last drive past the azure waters of Lake Pukaki. A quick stop to try for Black Stilt again with no luck (oh well, plenty of other endemics I need to come back for anyway ;) ) and then we headed for Lake Tekapo. Now Lake Tekapo is beautiful, but coming straight off the Southern Alps, it couldn't really compete, plus the lupins had finished flowering. We checked out the Church of the Good Shepard and the sheepdog memorial and then punched it for Christchurch. We finally made it to town at about 7:30pm. Seriously what is with NZ roads and taking forever to get places?
Well our holiday is coming to an end, didn't it just fly by? Sadly, tomorrow is our last day in New Zealand. Think we might spend it exploring Christchurch.