Saturday, February 8, 2014

Our Journey Into Middle Earth Part IV: A bit of mountaineering ;)

Monday 3 Feb 2014

Up early today to drive down and around the continent up to Mt. Cook. (Zig zag--my whoops!!) Our drive through Arthur’s Pass was incredibly steep!! Pedal to the metal and we were barely going 35kmh. I honestly thought we might not make it over the hill. The weather was very foggy and misty until we reached the summit. 


Pedal to the metal



Almost to the top
 Once over the top of the mountain, we burst into the brilliant sun.










Sweeping meadows and more enormous and mostly dry river beds accompanied us on our journey. We passed through many little towns and treated ourselves to sandwiches at Subway.(I know...I know, but it was CHEAP. And I can't eat another gas station pie at this point and I gotta space out the peanut butter pitas :P)





Much of New Zealand is farmland. Before visiting Te Papa Museum in Wellington, I had said that this was the most untouched country that I’ve ever visited. Now I know that these sweeping meadows are not what were first here. 85% of NZ was covered in forest before the tribal Maori came hundreds of years ago. When the Europeans first arrived, there was only around 50% of the forest remaining. Now the country houses only 25% of forest land. So, I’ll retract my previous statement. This country has been much changed by humans, but it remains beautiful and pure.







Traveling through foothills we came upon aquamarine Lake Tekapo. The water was so blue that I thought it couldn’t be clean. Turns out this glacier-fed lake is full of sediment that makes the water appear even bluer than it is. It was a glorious scene with Mt. Cook framed in the background.










Mt. Cook

Mt. Cook is the tallest mountain in NZ. This is the mountain that Sir Edmund Hilary practiced on before conquering Everest.



Our Backpacker's Lodge

View from our room





Goodbye Sun



We drove the long road into Mt. Cook National Park to arrive at our hotel. It was certainly the most dingy and run down place we’ve stayed, but the mountains more than made up for that. We had a balcony that sat in the shadow of those mountains. I feel I could stare at them forever. When the stars came out at night…it was unreal. I’ve seen a lot of stars in the heavens before, but nothing like this. It is awe-inspiring.


Tuesday 4 Feb 2014

The wind was howling when we woke up this morning. The air is so hot and dry. Our Fiji tans are flaking away :P

We set out to do the Hooker Valley Track. Again, no distance is listed, but the time was set at 4 hours. We took a bit longer, because we walked from our hotel to the trailhead. I hope my legs show the effort of all this walking ;) We’d guess it was about a 6 mile walk today.

The trail went along the valley floor of sweeping meadows before slowing climbing to a gray and murky glacier fed lake. The wind continued to fiercely blow, making it hard to walk at times.  We passed two memorials: one to the first woman climber of Mt. Cook and a stone memorial to those that have died in these mountains.





This would have made more sense if I'd remembered to take a pic of the photo I was mimicking :P




Monument to climbers






We crossed FOUR suspension bridges while slowly climbing into the hills. The bridges were a bit terrifying in the blowing wind. Water from the rivers below misted our faces as we tried to keep our balance to cross. The hike culminated at Hooker Lake (the end of another glacier). We stopped to take some quick photos of the iceburgs that float in the lake, before heading back down the trail to escape the pelting wind.










Iceburg!! Right ahead!!
















The hike back was a bit easier, since the wind was now at our backs, but the sun beat down. We were happy when we reached our hotel again and spent the evening reading and relaxing. Preston made yummy pasta for dinner in the communal kitchen. 

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