Majestic Mount Cook National Park

Majestic Mount Cook National Park

Today was a day that we had been looking forward to ever since we landed in New Zealand – we were off to Mount Cook National Park and were eager to see if it lived up to all of the hype surrounding it. To get there, we left our camp in Arundel and drove across the Mackenzie Basin towards Lake Tekapo, New Zealand’s second largest lake.

Here, we visited the historic Church of the Good Shepherd which overlooks the lake. It has the most amazing view from the altar – the best view I have ever seen from a church!

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Just a few hundred yards from the church is a giant statue of a collie dog – this is a monument to all the sheep dogs in the region, without whom the cultivation of the land ‘would not have been possible’ (Aww!).

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We took a lovely walk around the lake to Pines Beach before heading off to our next stop, the summit of Mount John. Mount John lies right beside Lake Tekapo and is famous for housing the Mount John Observatory. The Tekapo area is renowned for having the clearest night sky in New Zealand – hence why the observatory is here – and whilst we weren’t going to be there at night, we thought that we may as well drive up and take a look at the views.

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After flicking through the observatory’s amazing photos of the night sky, we drove to Lake Pukaki, around 25km away, and had lunch. On a clear day you are supposed to be able to see Mount Cook from this Lake, but unfortunately it started to rain as we were there and the clouds quickly covered the distant peaks!

The road to Mount Cook National Park winds past the banks of Lake Pukaki and we started to get very excited about where we were heading as soon as we saw what lay ahead.

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It was another hour before we reached Mount Cook Village and the rain continued to fall as we visited the Department of Conservation (DOC) visitor centre. The visitor centre was great and had reams of information about Mount Cook and the Southern Alps, including how they were formed and their importance to Maori people. After spending a while there, we then made our way to the DOC campsite at the foothills off Mount Sefton. This campsite is the only one in the village and costs $6.10 per person – a small price to pay for the absolutely amazing backdrop!

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After spending a peaceful night at the campsite we got up and indulged in a hearty breakfast of baked beans and sausages on toast – in preparation for our upcoming 3 hour hike through the Hooker Valley. The Hooker Valley winds through the National Park, over rocks, rivers and wetland and is a great way of experiencing the fantastic views that lie in every direction. We passed gorgeous glaciers, surging rivers, steep mountains and scary bridges as we made our way along the path towards the Hooker Glacier.

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Throughout the first half of our walk we enjoyed hot, sunny weather, however as we approached the Hooker Glacier at the end of the path, the clouds closed in and the rain started to fall, so once again, we weren’t able to view the famous Mount Cook in the distance! We walked as far as the Hooker Glacier Terminal Lake, before heading back.

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Once back in Mount Cook Village we showered and then set off towards the Tasman Valley, a 20 minute drive away down a long gravel track. This is another one of the National Park’s gems, where it’s possible to witness huge icebergs floating in the Tasman Glacier Lake. Since it was the middle of the summer we weren’t expecting to see much in the way of icebergs, but were surprised to come across a few remnants of winter floating in the icy water.

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We then walked to a viewpoint above the Tasman Glacier itself, where we got some great views of the moraine and surrounding mountains.

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Whilst we were at the lookout, the skies began to clear and we finally caught sight of (the slightly obscured) Mount Cook itself!

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Pleased that we had finally got a glimpse at the majestic mountain itself we decided to say goodbye to the Park and make our way back across to the East Coast. Despite the changeable weather, we could see why many people rave about Mount Cook and the surrounding area. The glaciers especially are spectacular and we could only imagine how they must look in the depths of winter. We were very disappointed not to have been able to see New Zealand’s tallest mountain clearly, but found that the national park has much more to offer than this one peak.

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