Where We Be
|Mount Cook & Tekapo, New Zealand
Mount Cook & Hooker Glacier
It takes extra effort to reach Mt. Cook Village, located at the end
of a long road that dead-ends in the vicinity of New Zealand’s
tallest mountain, but it's so worth it. Aoraki/Mt. Cook has a
Matterhorn-like steepness that makes it irresistible, and its
face is clogged with huge blocks of snow that look like they’re
in danger of avalanching at any moment. We consider these
some of the most picturesque mountains we've saw in New
Zealand. The Remarkables in Queenstown and the mountains
ringing Lake Wanaka are beautiful too, but they’re lacking the
essential ingredient of snow at the height of summer.
We got lucky and had great weather—hardly the norm for Mt.
Cook, where two days out of three are cloud-covered or stormy.
We did the Hooker Valley Glacier hike, the premier hike in the
area. The beauty-to-effort ratio is amazingly slanted towards
beauty. Glacial streams with dull, whitish-gray water pour forth
in frigid cascades. Each twist and turn of the trail offers new
perspectives. The track ends at an ash-white lake with icebergs
in it. Mt. Cook looms behind, still a significant hike away but big
enough to fill your camera lens. After our hike, we sipped wine
at The Hermitage, a classy resort in town, while enjoying a killer
view of Mt. Cook from the outdoor patio.
All tour buses stop in the town of Tekapo on their way from
Christchurch to Queenstown for the irresistible photo op of the
Church of the Good Shepherd in front of brilliantly blue Lake
Tekapo. We stopped, too, and the water really is a startling blue.
Perhaps the main reason to visit Tekapo is to enjoy some of the
darkest night skies in all of New Zealand, making it a perfect
place for star gazing. We signed up for one of the nightly star
gazing tours at the Mt. John Observatory, located on a hill high
above town. Our guide used a laser pointer to identify some of
the most famous constellations and stars visible only from the
southern hemisphere. He showed us Crux, the Southern Cross,
and its two bright “Pointers” to the southeast, Alpha and Beta
Centauri. The familiar constellation of Orion is “upside down” in
the southern hemisphere, with Orion's sword facing up instead
of down (here Orion's belt isn't a belt at all but the bottom of
“The Pot”). We took turns peering through a large telescope at
the Moon, Saturn, the Orion Nebula, and a globular star cluster.
|Mt. Cook is no match for Ironwoman!
|Mt. Cook looms over a small farm in Glentanner
|The lovely Church of the Good Shepherd sits at the edge of Lake Tekapo
|Church of the Good Shepherd next to the impossibly blue water of Lake Tekapo
|Hooker Valley Glacier Hike -- easy walk, big rewards
|Dusk at Lake Tekapo just before our stargazing tour
|Mt. Cook at sunset as seen from our cabin in Glentanner
|Picture-postcard view of snow-clad Mt. Cook from a distance
|Celebrating another day of sunshine and alpine scenery
|We loved the outdoor patio at The Hermitage, a classy resort in Mt. Cook Village