Aoraki is the traditional Maori name for Mount Cook the highest mountain located in the Southern Alps of the South Island in NZ.
After leaving Lake Tekapo and the Church of the Good Shepard we headed towards Lake Pukaki and Twizel. As you head along the Lake, the bluest water I’ve ever seen, Mount Cook is visible in the distance.
A popular viewing spot is Peter’s Lookout but be prepared to keep pulling over for pictures, very carefully as the roads are narrow and winding.
Our morning was spent at the Aoraki/Mount Cook Village and the Hermitage Hotel learning a little about Sir Edmund Hillary, one of the world’s great explorers, who developed his climbing skills here in preparation for his ascent of Mount Everest.
Unfortunately, our hike on the Hooker Valley Track started out with rainy, cold weather. This hike is stunning and the most popular in the park. We decided to start out, with our fingers and toes crossed, that things would change. There was no Mount Cook in sight. We stopped several people who said the weather was worse farther on but we persevered. We stopped the the Mueller Lake overlook and were awed at the sight and sound of glacial rivers and mountains soaring all around.
Several times we thought about turning back but, well you know what you say to yourself, “Just a little further”! HaHa!!!!
Well, we were eventually rewarded. The rain finally stopped, and the sun came out. The hike to Hooker Lake crosses 3 crazy suspension bridges. I was a little freaked out by the sign that no more than 20 people at a time should be on the bridge. It was a really, long way down to the freezing, rushing Hooker River. So, like any good photographer, I held my breath and you know – anything for the shot! Hey we had already spent hours carrying my camera gear in the rain so there was not stopping us now!
Just when we thought we couldn’t walk much further, other hikers on the return assured us the end was in sight and well worth it and oh my what a sight!
Slowly, but surely, and a lot of patience and waiting on our part, the peaks of Mount Cook were revealed. A sight and experience I won’t soon forget.
There are many options in the park. We chose the Hooker Valley Track. This path is very easy with a mild elevation. The famous boardwalk is covered in wire so it isn’t slippery in the rain or snow. This trail has 3 suspension bridges crossing over the Hooker River. You should plan a good 3-4 hours round trip for this hike.
You can also visit the Franz Josef Glacier, Tasman Lake, and the Blue Lakes. You can get a helicopter ride if you plan in advance and see both the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers and even land on the Tasman Glacier.
If hiking overnight you might check in so your whereabouts can be safeguarded. Winter can be very dangerous. Summer hiking is much easier but precautions must always be taken to ensure your safety. Weather conditions can change rapidly in the mountains.
Mount Cook National Park is part of the Aoraki Mackenzie Dark Sky Reserve. This area is protected from light pollution and the only Dark Sky preserve in the Southern hemisphere. The stars are brilliant here against the black sky. Although the night was freezing I went out to try my hand at finding the Milky Way and do some night photography. Sadly, I wasn’t too successful. next time!
The stars are so incredible and the only other time I’ve seen such a gorgeous sky was in Vermont one winter evening. What an amazing world!! We must all do our part to protect it and all that exist in it. Be a responsible traveler please!
Here are some maps to give you an overview of the area.
Did you miss the other blogs on New Zealand: Here are links
Wine Tours and Bungy jumping; Spa Day in Queenstown; Land of Lord of the Rings- Queenstown-Glenorchy; The World Down Under – Lake Wanaka; Lake Tekapo and Church of the Good Shepard
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Well worth the time and endurance. The reward at the end is breathtaking