If snow-capped mountains and piercing blue lakes are your thing, then you’re in for a treat today. Even in the warm summer months the white peaks of the Southern Alps dominate New Zealand’s landscape and in true ‘saving the best for last’ form, we chose to visit the Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park as our final stop before flying to Indonesia.
Picture the scene. You’re driving through the countryside with the incredible Lake Pukaki to your right and the mountains rising up in the distance. It’s physically impossible not to pull over and start snapping away. So just imagine my face when my memory card promptly threw a strop of such epic proportions that it put my DSLR completely out of service for the day. I mean, honestly. Thanks for the image above Adobe. The rest of the pictures in this post have been pieced together from GoPro footage and phone cameras.
We decided to take on the Hooker Valley track, a 3-4 hour walk that had me silently whooping because it’s flat! After our epic Tongariro Crossing adventure and the steep hike to Roy’s Peak, I was in the mood for something a little less challenging. Plus, from start to finish, you are treated to completely spectacular views.
We followed the well-marked path through the valley, punctuated with three suspension bridges that swayed in the wind. Actually, swayed probably isn’t the right word here. It rocked so much that we actually backed up at one point until the gusts had subsided. What a pair of wimps.
At the end of the track, Hooker Lake was waiting. The lake began forming in the late 1970’s as the Hooker Glacier started to retreat and doubled in size between 1990 and 2013. It was actually a little scary to see such a visible testament to global warming before our eyes. On calm days, you can see a perfect reflection of Aoraki / Mount Cook in the lake but not today. The water was cloudy grey but the surface is scattered with icebergs to remain a startlingly impressive sight.
As if this National Park wasn’t an amazing way to finish the trip alone, we had another surprise coming. Due to some last minute changes in our trip, we ended up a little stuck for accommodation. It turns out that peak season is busy in remote areas – who’d have thought? After much searching, we found an Airbnb just under two hours away that turned out to be a hidden gem.
It wasn’t your conventional apartment or bedroom however; we were glamping for the night! Located 45 minutes from Lake Tekapo, we arrived at Opawa Retreat not sure what to expect. But our hosts Craig and Lisa gave us a warm welcome on arrival and it turns out, they actually used to live where I’m from in the UK! For a remote town as far from home as you could get, this was an utterly mind blowing coincidence. We chatted for a while and looked around their amazing house that Craig built before settling in for the night.
The amazing tent is a thousand times cosier than any I’ve stayed in before. Think books, a fluffy rug and an outdoor kitchen where we made soup to eat on camping chairs under the setting sun.
We slept soundly, only waking up to peek our heads outside at 3am to see if the clouds had cleared. I only wish I could have fixed my camera in time because I’ve never seen anything like it. The sight of the outline of the Milky Way among thousands and thousands of stars was unforgettable. It was hands down our best night in New Zealand and if you are planning a trip, I would highly recommend spending a night or two there!
For us though, it’s onto pastures new as we head into South East Asia!