When people ask us what our favourite place in New Zealand was, Mount Cook National Park definitely ranks among the top five spots of our travel! The combination of Lake Pukaki’s turquoise water, a bright blue sky, golden grassland and snow topped grey mountains was just incredible in the afternoon sun. We must have stopped a million times during the drive along Lake Pukaki to Aoraki Mount Cook village and couldn’t stop taking pictures (even more so after we discovered the ‘dramatic’ filter in our camera).
We had not booked any accommodation for Aoraki village when we finally arrived and decided against camping (which was a very wise decision, considering it was freezing cold with strong winds all throughout the night and the next day). Instead we checked in at the Mt Cook Backpacker Lodge with following conversation:
- Us: “Good afternoon, how are you doing? We would like to book a double room for tonight, please.”
- Staff: “Good afternoon, sorry we’re fully booked.”
- Us: “Huh! But your website says that you still have rooms available.”
- Staff: [without looking at the computer] “No sorry, we’re all booked out.”
- Us: [showing her the booking website on our iPad] “Well, could you please check again, since you still have vacancy in the internet!” [she’s finally checking their system]
- Staff: “Oh you’re right, we still have a double room available” [surprise surprise]
- Us: “Great! We would like to book that room for tonight then, please”
Apparently it was the end of her shift, but WTF ??????
After quickly putting our stuff in the room and getting out some warm clothes we drove to White Horse Hill for a fantastic alpine sunset at Mount Cook. During the short walk to the viewing point somebody told us how incredibly lucky we were with the weather, because apparently it had rained (and even snowed at higher altitudes) the last two days and only cleared up in the afternoon, when we arrived.
Returning to our backpacker we decided to add another night to our stay to have some time for hiking the next day and were able to get a really sweet deal. Have I mentioned that they were not the brightest staff we have met, yet?
One night accommodation: $135
Glacier explorer package: $510
(includes two nights, dinner and a drink for two and boat trip on Tasman glacier lake)
In the evening the staff didn’t realise that we already had had two complimentary beers at the bar and gave us two more pints for dinner. The boat trip was cancelled the next day and we got a $290 refund (after it took two people ten minutes with a calculator to confirm the refund value that was in fact printed on the voucher all along). –> In the end we spent $85 for the second night including dinner and four pints of Monteiths 🙂
Next morning we started really early for the Hooker Valley walk on the foot of Mount Cook. What you cannot see on the pictures below is that it was freezing cold with gale force wind gusts blowing through the valley floor (which was also the reason why the boat trip in the neighbouring Tasman valley was cancelled later that day). The views of the surrounding glaciers and icebergs swimming in Hooker Glacier lake was was definitely worth the windy walk!
When we found out in the afternoon that our glacier explorer boat tour on Tasman Glacier Lake was cancelled, we decided to drive there for some hiking anyway. Turned out it was not nearly as spectacular as the brochures had us believe and there was not a single iceberg in the water that day! In the brochures the boat is literally cruising between Titanic sized floating ice boulders. Boy, were we glad that we hadn’t spent all that money for a boat cruise on a grey lake 😉
It was cloudy, grey and cold when we left Mount Cook National Park the next morning, but the thermometer seemed to jump some 10°C when we reached the southern end of Lake Pukaki and caught a breathtaking farewell view of Mt Cook in the distance.