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What an exhausting day! Michelle is sound asleep as I write this.
We rose about 07:30 and brekkied on cereal with complimentary milk from the Mt Dobson Motel. The weather hadn't improved overnight - still grey, dreary, wet, and with very low cloud. The reception guy asked us what our plans were for the day and, when we said Mount Cook, he advised us not to bother. He pointed straight out the window at the grey blur of fog and said, "There's a 7,000 foot mountain right there - if you can't see that then you'll never see Mount Cook!"
Sheepdog statue at Lake Tekapo
Nevertheless, we did go to Mount Cook - no use wasting the planned day for it. First stop out of Kimbell was Tekapo... where we pulled by the most photographed thing in NZ - the sheepdog statue on the shore of Lake Tekapo. Just as we got out of the car, a busload of Japanese tourists pulled up at the nearby Church of the Good Shepherd, so we made quick photo work of the dog and wandered over to the church as the tourists flocked the dog. The views of the lake were brilliant, but the mountains we figured were in the distance were all hidden by a cloak of cloud. Still, very pretty.
Church of the Good Shepherd at Lake Tekapo
In town at Tekapo we stopped for fresh fruit and snacks. Michelle bought Jason a sheepy T-shirt for a gift and we filled up the car with petrol. We headed off for Mount Cook.
A few kilometres out of Tekapo we spotted a sign: pointing down a right turn. I knew we had to make a turn to the right somewhere to get to Mount Cook, so took the turn. No idea what this "Salmon" place was. The road deteriorated a bit and it was not fast going alongside a rather large canal, with lots of standing water from the rain along the road. After a while we wondered if we were actually on the right road, since the turnoff seemed awfully soon after Tekapo. Eventually we reached a building that was labelled as a salmon farm. We stopped for directions and learnt that the sign was actually pointing the way to the "Mount Cook Salmon" salmon farm, not to two places called Mount Cook and Salmon! Fortunately the road we were on rejoined the main road where we were meant to be, and was even a kilometre or two shorter.
Finally we hit the right road again and found the right turnoff. The way to Mount Cook Village was beside Lake Pukaki - very beautiful cloudy blue water. Still a shame the rain/cloud didn't let us see any of the real mountains.
A we approached Mount Cook Village, Michelle spotted a snow-capped jagged peak through a small break in the cloud. I looked and the car swerved across the road as I exclaimed in amazement. It was really quite stunning. Michelle was a bit worried about the car though...
When we got to the village we stopped for a toilet break and some coffee for Michelle to warm her up after the walk around the village in search of a coffee shop. We sat in The Hermitage, which was supposed to have fantastic views of Mount Cook, but all we saw was massed cloud and more Asian tourists.
We ate lunch in the car then drove off to the Tasman Glacier terminal. It was a bumpy, potholed road - we stopped a few times for cloudy valley photos. At the terminal car park we rugged up for the 20/10 minute walks to the glacier terminal/glacier view spots. The weather was quite chilly and spitting occasional rain as we set out.
The terminal walk was okay, seeing lots of piles of rocks left over from the last big glacial advance. Getting back we headed uphill for the glacier view. We saw the blue lakes along the way. The promised 10 minute walk seemed more like 20, climbing up a steep rockpile in switchbacks. At the top, the wind was fierce but the view was extensive. Most of the ice was covered with rocks and dirt and stuff, but we could see some exposed ice right at the terminal where the lake appeared, and also a bit further in there were broken cliff-like chunks of ice.
The rain was getting heavier, but we declined to use our brollies as we tramped down again in freezing wind. It was a relief to get back in the car! We had a snack and then left for Twizel.
During the drive back down the valley and along the shore of Lake Pukaki, the sun began shining through some gaps in the clouds to the south, and we could see a few more snowy peaks in the distance, though it stayed rainy and dreary where we were.
Driving back down the glacial valley
We hit Twizel and found our accommodation without any trouble. It's right across the road from the main shops and we availed ourselves with some fresh milk and meat for my dinner right away. On the way back across the street we saw in the distance the first real break in the clouds that allowed a good view of the mountains. Fantastic!
Made pasta for dinner, with meat - huge serve given by butcher when we asked for enough for one! - then went back to the shops for fruit juice and ice cream. NZ cookies & cream ice cream - two scoops heaped into a cone for... 95 cents! Wowee! In Aus that would set you back $3 or so. Will have to go back there after brekky tomorrow for more!
The clouds continued breaking up and I took a few long range shots of the mountains with the telephoto lens.
Now the sun's gone down - Michelle is still fast asleep - and it's about time for me to turn in too...
Accommodation: High Country Holiday Lodge, Twizel: $48.
Food and drink: $14.50.
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