Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Aoraki Mount Cook, NZ: Stunned

We are stunned by the kindness of strangers.

Lee and Frank met us for five minutes in Nelson two months ago and invited us to their home when we reached Twizel. So we contacted them, and they offered us so much. Wine and food, a little house all to ourselves, and a vehicle for us use to drive to Mt Cook National Park.
We are stunned by the scale of the landscape.

Frank drove us around to see his land and subdivisions, 5000 acres in all, and to see where the Plains of Rohan scene was filmed, and to see the canals and power generators of the Waitaki Valley Hydroelectric Scheme.

We are stunned by the majesty of Mt Cook.

The weather forecast was for a rare clear day, and only one of them.  So instead of using that day to cycle to the village of Aoraki Mt Cook, we took the borrowed truck, loaded with camping gear, for an overnighter at the base of this great mountain.  It is the highest peak in New Zealand.  It is visible from the West Coast, although it was shrouded in clouds when we looked for it from that side of the island.  But on this day, we were so close we were speechless.

Thank you, Lee and Frank, for making this memory.

John mastered left-hand shifting to get us to the shore of Lake Pukaki for the morning view of Mt Cook.

The glacial outwash plain downstream of Mt Cook feeds Lake Pukaki.

Mt Cook, 3,754 meters (12,316 feet)

We sat for a couple of hours sitting and staring at these glaciers from Kea Point. 

Wind clouds, like the Sierra Wave that forms in the lee of the crest of the Sierra Nevada at home.

We spent the afternoon hiking up Hooker Valley.  There were two swingbridges crossing the glacial stream.

The Hooker Glacier terminates into Hooker Lake at the end of the trail.  Strong winds of an approaching storm kicks up dust on the left side slopes.

It had been raining for several hours when we left the village, but we drove out of it 20 kilometers down the road.  Looking back, we could see it was still raining at the crest.
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