The drive to Mt Cook has been my favourite bus ride so far, and not only because of the scenery. Our bus driver who was super knowledgeable on his surroundings, history and wildlife filled almost the entire drive with stories, fun facts and even a song about a guy named Mackenzie who led his sheep through a mountain pass. As we drove around lake Pukaki, he informed us that he would stop at the dam for a few moments so we could get out and take a few photos.
Entering into Tasman valley we rounded the bend into the small town of Mt Cook with a population of 300 people, mainly staff for the accommodations and tourism facilities.
Camping in a National Park you would think that the accommodation would be pricier than a holiday park, but it is the exact opposite. It only cost us 10$ to stay for the night, the only catch was that we had to walk 2.5 km from the bus stop in order to reach the camp site.
The walk was not as bad as I had thought it would be, we walked alongside the road following its winding path through the center of the valley between two mountain ranges. The view was extraordinary.
Once we were set up near the back of the campground sheltered in an inlet of trees, we got out our lunch and sat in the grass outside our tent.
This is officially my favourite trail to date.
The scenery the entire way was spectacular, constantly opening up further and further each time you reach the top of a hill. The mountains surround you on all four sides some covered with snow and others not.
The size of the alluvial fans were incredible, reaching almost the entire height of the mountain and the clouds floated overtop and around the mountains blowing quickly past.
Shortly into starting the trail we took a side trail to the Alpine Memorial monument marking the journey of a few mountaineers who despite their best effort and hard work, near the base after descending Mt Cook they were wiped out by an avalanche. The monument had been erected later on my loved ones and friends of those that had passed. The structure of the monument was gorgeous, using only natural materials to construct it.
This trail had three bridge crossings all pretty spread out from one another.
The first one being the smallest of them all and the most sheltered from the crossed the first one no problem continuing on further into the valley. As the valley rounded the bend of the mountain range it narrowed into a smaller valley surrounded by mountains on all three sides. The largest mountain of them all being Mt Cook, with the top sections covered in snow threatened to fall with the next gust of wind.
When we reached the second suspension bridge Lauren had decided she didn't want to cross it since the wind was much stronger here, so she stayed on that end while I crossed and quickly checked out the view around the corner. This is when the first valley opened into the second one, giving you the first glance of Mt Cook. After talking to a couple sitting on the picnic bench, suggesting that we go all the way and that it was definitely worth the trek, especially considering we were so close. I walked back over to Lauren, and convinced her that the view was spectacular and that if she wasn't up to it I was going to continue alone. Since there were so many people on the trail I was not worried about hiking it alone.
In the end she decided that she would, so we hiked on with the end goal of seeing the ice chunks floating in the lake with the picturesque view of the mountains in the background.
When we rounded the last hill overlooking the glacier lake and Mt Cook, the view was breathtaking. In awe we both stared forward as we defended the last portion before reaching the lookout without barely saying a word.
I could of sat there all day staring at the mountains watching the clouds pass over. Since it was an hour and a half walk in, we knew we still had an hour and a half to go to get back to our tent. The track being a little over 5 km in length.
We captured a few photos and I attempted a headstand and being knocked over the first time by a gust but I got it the second time. When I did the people sitting at the lookout all clapped and cheered. I thought it was funny that they were so impressed, I guess I'm just used to being around a group of people that know I am capable of it.
Before turning back we took one last look and figured we probably had enough photos by this point that we could start giving some away.
The hike back was just as beautiful offering a few different angles on the scenery we passed while lighting it up with the suns rays.