On Thursday we left the Lazy Dog and headed to Mount Cook for the weekend. We have passed by the national park on both our journeys south from Christchurch, but we decided to save it for a weekend away from our Lazy base.
It was a fairly long drive and we broke the journey with a lunch stop overlooking the spectacular Lindis Pass. As temperatures have been low we headed to a campsite about 20km south of Mount Cook for the first night (so we could have a power hook up and therefore run our heaters if required). We had a really good view up the valley towards Mount Cook and went a walk down to the Northern edge of Lake Pukaki (which is a lovely blue colour due to the dissolved minerals in the water).
Our campsite had its own airfield and we decided that a helicopter trip up to see the snow sounded like a great idea…but unfortunately when we phoned to book it was not possible as there was bad weather up on the mountain…and the bad news was it was heading our way!
The next morning we awoke to an overcast, grey day. Mount Cook had disappeared behind cloud and we were feeling a bit more despondent as we drove the last 20km up the valley (memories of the Wet West Coast were resurfacing). As the clouds couldn’t decide whether to rain or not, we decided to take advantage of the dryish weather and head for a walk.
We drove 8km of unpaved roads (I will be happy never to see another unpaved road ever again once this trip is over) so we could walk a short climb up for a view of the Tasman Glacier. Peter has developed a love of walking and he bounded on ahead to the viewpoint. When we got to the top he had a massive grin as not only could we see the glacier, but the river was dotted with spectacular icebergs (one of Peter’s favourite things!). We stopped for a snack and a spot of drawing for the boys before heading back to the van for lunch. After lunch we managed another walk down to the river before the weather really closed in.
As the heavens opened we headed to the hub of the Mount Cook village…the Hermitage Hotel. Peter was again in his element as he discovered the ‘Edmund Hillary Centre’ (Peter and Joe regularly play ‘Everest’ which involves a dramatic re-creation of Hillary and Norgay’s ascent of Mt Everest - in this version the famous mountaineers tie jumpers round their heads and carry folding chairs to the summit). We threw caution to the wind and bought a family ticket to the museum, 3D movie and Planetarium…and the rest of the afternoon passed in a blur of educational activity for the boys!
We had been distinctly unimpressed with the campsite the previous night and with the rain teeming down we knew that we would not be getting out the van wherever we stayed. As the weather had been warm during the day, the sky was cloudy and there was a wind…we decided to gamble on a warm night and wilderness camp. Our gamble paid off, the overnight temperatures did not go below freezing and we were not too cold. As an extra precaution we had pegged blankets over the window to keep drafts out…which caused much confusion to Luke in the morning…he couldn’t understand how blankets over the windows would keep giraffes out!!!
The next morning we peeked out the curtains as the sun rose to see the clouds had cleared and the view from our bed was a spectacular sunrise over Mount Sefton. After quickly jumping out the van in my PJ’s to get a few photos we relaxed in bed and enjoyed the view.
On Saturday we went a two hour (round trip) hike up the Hooker Valley and got some fantastic views of Mount Cook. Joe did some brilliant walking and we all thoroughly enjoyed ourselves. We went back to the Hermitage for a well deserved lunch and cake. We were very impressed by the Hermitage, it was a modern, quite smart hotel, with stunning views but yet it had a quite laid back vibe. As we were relaxing in the lounge pondering where David could watch the Grand Prix on Sunday…we suddenly had a brilliant idea…a quick browse of the hotel website later …we were booked in for Sunday night!
On Saturday night we dropped a quick text to the ‘Sarahs’ only to discover that they were at Franz Joseph…this is less than 60km (as the crow flies) from Mount Cook Village and it felt really good to know that they were so close!! We are meeting up with them on Tuesday and we cannot wait!!
On Sunday we did another two walks, visited the Edmund Hillary Centre again, ate more cake in the restaurant and then got checked into our room in the early afternoon. We had booked a ‘motel’ room with a small kitchen and our own bathroom (a major treat when you live on the road!!). Peter and Joe couldn’t believe their luck as we let them watch two hours of cartoons this afternoon before the Grand Prix. Luke had a ‘lovely shower’ and then had an early night (he loves taking his toys and bucket into the shower).
As the Grand Prix started I headed into the bathroom for an hour of beautification (including re-dyeing my fast-fading red hair). As I write Joe is a zombie almost asleep on the couch watching the F1 Press Conference, David is delighted with a Brawn 1-2 and looking forward to an interesting F1 season, while Peter is sleepily grinning as he recovers from the shock of Hamilton finishing fourth from last on the grid.
I am sipping my wine, typing and reflecting on a perfect end to a fantastic long-weekend at Mount Cook, one of the best places we have visited in New Zealand and somewhere we will all take home fond memories of.