From Christchurch to Mt. Cook
This morning I left Christchurch and headed to Mt. Cook National Park. The countryside is beautiful and is populated with many sheep farms. Along the way, I stopped at a little café called Farm Barn Café for a quick lunch and snapped some pictures of the surrounding landscape.
On the way to Mt. Cook, I passed Lake Tekapo, a glacier fed lake. In addition, there is a tourist attraction of a historical church that draws many to photograph it. However, it becomes quite hard to take a good picture with so many tourists around. I tried my best. The weather was quite warm today and I had been expecting rain much of the day but didn’t see rain all day.
As I approached Mt. Cook National Park, there is a very large lake called Lake Pukaki which is also glacier fed right off of Mt. Cook. The glacier blue waters were picturesque and there were some great cloud reflections.
Mt. Cook is stunning
After a 4.5 hour drive from Christchurch, I finally arrived at Mt. Cook National Park. I stayed at the Hermitage Hotel in the Mt. Cook Village. The Hermitage Hotel is a bit of a splurge but I think it was worth it. The hotel has fantastic views of Mt. Cook and is convenient to the park trails. There are also many restaurants here. The breakfast buffet is great. The dinner buffet is quite good but a bit pricey. You can see the hotel in the bottom left corner of one of the pictures below. I took that picture of Mt. Cook from my veranda at sunset.
An interesting fact about this area is that it is the only place in the southern hemisphere recognized as an International Dark Sky Reserve. It is known as the Aoraki Mackenzie International Dark Sky Reserve. This means this area is virtually free of light pollution and stargazing is amazing. There are only 8 places in the world with this distinction.
I joined the stargazing tour that evening from the Hermitage Hotel and we set out for the stargazing pad around 10:30 pm. The guides were great and helped get our eyes conditioned for the night skies by using red lights on the bus and the building for our introduction. The guides shared constellation stories, pointed out significant constellations and had many telescopes set up. I got to see Saturn that night and now know how to find the Southern Cross in the sky. I would highly recommend this excursion. It was a little pricey but worth it.
Hooker Valley Trail
The next morning I set out for the Hooker Valley Track which was a short drive from the hotel. This was about a 3 hour roundtrip hike and went past nonstop vistas of the surrounding mountains and river. The hike itself was pretty easy with some stairs (not many) and three suspension bridges to cross. I started out dressing quite warmly as the wind was pretty fierce and the forecast called for rain. Within 15 minutes, I was taken off some layers of warmth and the rain never did come. I would highly recommend this track when visiting. Many people picnicked at the end of the trail… bring your picinic with you.
I really enjoyed my stay at Mt. Cook. I only stayed one night but I think a two night stay is the right length of time to stay. There are so many trails I would have liked to have done with more time.