New Zealand’s highest mountain, Mt Cook / Aoraki, is usually hidden in clouds. Everyone, including the Lonely Planet, told us not to get our hopes up and be prepared for clouds.
Driving to Mt Cook
Practically since the day we arrived on the South Island, we observed the weather forecast for Mt Cook and it looked invariably bad. Rain, snow, clouds; all the mean things. But nevertheless we wanted to go and see if we could see the mountain. So one morning, when the forecast looked quite ok, we drove the 2.5 hours from where we had spent the night, hoping that the weather would stay the way it was. Because it looked good. Very good.
Once we arrived at Lake Pukaki and got the first glimpse of the famous mountain, it was only partially covered by a small cloud. It was a real WOW-moment: the turquoise water of the lake, the lupines on the lake shore, and the mountains towering majestically at the far end of the lake.
By the time we arrived at the parking lot from where the hike to Hooker Lake (the postcard view) starts, the cloud was gone. We walked the trail in the most amazing sunshine and had breathtaking views of Mt Cook from across the lake. The hike is beautiful and the landscape is just stunning.
It was so warm that when we got back to the car, at first I didn’t see the banana I had left to ripen on the dashboard. It was cooked through and as black as the dashboard itself. I should have better left some eggs there for lunch.
A few kilometers off the main road is Lake Tasman, a glacier lake that has formed in the 1970s and that is now several kilometers long. A trail of mostly steps leads up a steep hills from where you have great views over the lake and the beautifully colored valley on the other side. As at Franz Josef Glacier, there’s an information board explaining the length of the glacier over the decades – or, more accurately, its retreat.