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Previous day: Day 12 – Lake Tekapo

Day 13 – Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook and back

Mackenzie Country

Just a bit more about the countryside around here. This area is ‘Mackenzie Country’, and it’s pretty wild around here. It’s also very dry – the clouds hit the Southern Alps and drop their rain on the West Coast (which, as mentioned before, is very wet!). So this area is in the rain shadow. And it’s reasonably flat (maybe ‘wavy’ is a good description), and at a high altitude. There’s a ski resort and Mount Cook as close neighbours. If you were to look at what it has going for it, you’d say ‘not a lot’. The ground is scrubby, the grass (what there is of it) is yellow. There are very few trees, and those that are here are mostly conifers. Then there is the contrast of the lakes, which are almost too big.

It is therefore a total surprise to take in the whole (especially on a sunny day) and find that your first reaction is ‘how beautiful’. We discussed why this was for quite a while, and came to the conclusion that it was the contrast of colours – golden and brown grasses, dark green trees, aqua blue lakes and (while we were there) the clearest azure blue skies with just tiny wisps of cloud.

Mackenzie Country

Mackenzie was famous not only for opening up the area, but also for rustling 1000 sheep, for which he did time

Lake Tekapo to Mount Cook

Our original intention was to stay inLake Tekapo for 2 nights, then spend one night in Mount Cook, camping. But as we had such an ideal spot in our campsite, we decided that we’d just go to Mount Cook for the day. Good decision!

We expected the road to be mountainous, but the opposite was true. In fact the majority of the journey was so flat I’d recommend it to people on bicycles. Our motorcycle atlas recommended a road alongside a canal (very flat) – unfortunately it was a private road, and although we chose not to believe the ‘road closed’ signs, eventually we had to stop when a padlocked gate got in the way! We did recommend the road to a group of cyclists though – a locked gate is no barrier to a determined velocipede! But we could take the road next to the canal when we found where it crossed the main road. And it is worth the ride, as (on a clear day – which it was!) you can start getting peeks at Mount Cook very quickly across the canal and Lake Pukaki.

One problem with the canal – it has the parasitic weed Didymo (otherwise known as ‘Snotweed’) in it. DOC have a massive campaign to stop this spreading, so if you take anything on the water (e.g. Kayak) make sure you wash everything down thoroughly before you go on any other lake or river.

Lake Pukaki is a man-made lake, and just one of the lakes that makes up New Zealand’s hydroelectric programme. But it also acts as a magnificent canvas to show off Mount Cook. As you look up the lake from the south, Mount Cook is framed between two hills at the far end,

The road to Mount Cook is along the western edge of the lake – and it must be going up, but it doesn’t feel it (someone on a bicycle might tell us otherwise!)

Mount Cook (Aoraki)

Mount Cook Village is a bit of a disappointment. It’s a bit clinical (there are some awful high-rise apartments in a very non-fetching shade of blue), and not very big. Also the view of Mount Cook is very limited. One memory will be the sea of campervans in the information centre car park.


Whilst sitting having a coffee and scone in the cafe there, we picked up a leaflet on kayaking on one of the glacier lakes – 3 hours for $110. As we hadn’t really splashed out on anything at this point, we decided to go on the 2:00 pm trip. Typical, isn’t it? It had been cancelled! As the sun was shining, we didn’t really understand why, but c’est la vie! So off we trundled to the Information Centre to find out how to walk to one of the glaciers. We received instruction from a very handsome (and young) DOC officer. And his final words were ‘Take a raincoat – the weather’s turning’.

That afternoon was good proof about why it is always advisable to go tramping well prepared. He was dead right. An hour later, the sun had disappeared and a very strong and chilly wind had blown up. We got as far as the Mueller Glacier (about ¾ hours walk) and turned back. And there were people passing us wearing nothing but t-shirts. One family had a baby with them! By the time we got back to the car there was ice-cold rain, and most of the tents in the camping ground looked like they were likely to take off.

We jumped in the car and headed for home. There were no clear views of Mount Cook on the way home – it was living up to its Maori name of ‘Cloud Piercer’.

Lake Tekapo Night Life

Well, it’s a small village! Our original intention was to go to the Hot Pools by our campsite (they close at 10:00 pm), but as it was a bit windy we gave it a miss and headed to the centre of town. There’s a Thai restaurant, a pizzeria, and (just what we were looking for) a tavern with a reasonably priced bar menu. Nothing special – give the garlic bread a miss – but some very tasty potato skins (out of the freezer) with cheese, bacon and sour cream. Washed down with ExportGold.

We were back in the tent by 9:45, and ready for one more night of sleeping bags and hard mattresses. We have plans for tomorrow night….

Next day: Day 14 – Lake Tekapo to Oamaru

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terris_travelogue/south_island/day_13.txt · Last modified: 2010/11/10 09:31 by art
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