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New Zealand – Mount Cook – 27th-28th Dec

We were up early and packed ready for the off to Mount Cook, it was going to be a long drive today with around 300km to cover. Again we had fantastic weather which only mean’t we would get hot in our non-air conditioned van but windows down and with a bit of a breeze we would be fine. Our first stop was at the Moeraki Boulders, unusually large spherical boulders sitting on a stretch of Koekahe Beach. It’s a popular tourist stop as we were met with crowds of travellers making their way up or down the coast. They are pretty random though and worth a picture or two if you’re passing.

So onwards from the famous boulders we turned onto State Highway 83 and started making our way inland towards the Mount Cook region. Not far from Duntroon we stopped to check out some Maori rock paintings on the limestone cliffs, they’re talked about in the Lonely Planet and so we thought it would be a good little spot for lunch. So with around 150 km to go (which in ‘Po’ means a good 2 hours of so) we continued on with our journey. It’s difficult not to stop as you approach Mount Cook because the views and colours of Lakes Behmore and Pukaki are shockingly blue with snow-tipped peaks all around. It’s a breathtaking part of the country to visit.

When we eventually arrived in Mount Cook Village we nipped into the DOC to get some information on walks for the next day. After some good advice from the warden on duty we picked up a route map for the area and decided we would take the Mueller Hut trail the following day up to Mount Olivia.

Our campsite for the evening was at The White Horse DOC camping ground, it’s the only place to camp in the area and was packed full of camper vans and tents. it’s a really popular place and has a large communal cooking shelter with lots of extra toilets to so for $6 per person it’s not bad at all. In terms of location it is fantastic, we were practically at the foot of Mount Cook with a lot of major paths leading from the campsite to various sites and valleys in the area, we walked out along the Hooker Valley track for around an hour before getting back to the van for a night in!

The next morning we were up early and ready for our hike, we’d heard it was pretty tough so we were ready for a work-out. Plus this would be a chance for us to test out our new packs and start getting in some training for Nepal. We loaded up our packs although both of us knew that in reality we’ll be carrying more weight, but we have to start somewhere. The hike itself is very tough, especially the first 2 hours up hill, we weren’t quite expecting it to be so steep and so we really were getting quite a sweat on. The terrain is a mixture of large steps built into the pathway, rocks, shale and snow, so we had it all as well as more fantastic views throughout the valley. We knew this would go on our list of epic walks as soon as we started out.

Closer to the top we were hit with cool wind and so wrapped up again before making our way around the corner to Mueller Hut. Here we stopped for lunch and had a good nosey around, they have volunteer wardens who stay on a weekly basis during the season to keep an eye on the place, so we enjoyed a good chat with them. Not long after we decided to take the extra hike up to Mount Olivier, although we didn’t make it quite to the top (it’s a little unclear as to where this is) we were at around 2000m and enjoyed being there very much indeed.

The path down was steep once again and so we felt a little jarred afterwards, but we loved the hike, the views and the challenge. Perhaps it won’t be quite so enjoyable all the time when we’re in Nepal but we’re already starting to anticipate to the highs and the lows! Mount Cook is a must on the agenda if you’re travelling around South Island. Later that night we stayed at Lake Tekapo and decided we would be heading to Christchurch earlier so we could start planning the sale of the van.

(Olympus PEN, 17mm f2.8 & 100mm f2.8, processed in Lightroom 3)

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