Day 112 - Queenstown to Mount Cook

Trip Start Sep 02, 2007
Trip End May 01, 2008

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Sunday, December 23, 2007

I'm a bit embarrassed to say that we flaked out very early last night...

We had a nice Thai meal (lamb shanks in mussaman curry, mmmm....) at about 8pm, accompanied by a cheeky little Hawkes Bay cab', and went into a couple of bars for a couple of drinks.

The only problem was that they were both empty! Not sure if it was because it was still quite early (9ish), or because it was so close to Xmas & everyone was skint.

Queenstown appears to be about 98% tourists on any given day, so I thought that it must have to be the former, so we went back to our hostel (which had a great location right on the lake), and lay down on the bed.

FATAL mistake...

We woke up at about 12:30am (!) because some Korean dude was practically yelling into his cellphone right outside our window, so I opened the windows, gave him a filthy look, and then hopped back into bed.

We woke up for the last time before 7am, so we decided to make an early start and head to Mount Cook.

We'd booked a cabin in another holiday park just outside Mt Cook village, and it was about a 4 hour drive to get there.

It was another beautiful day, so we enjoyed our drive back out of town...

...along the side of the lake...
Queenstown lake 2

...stopping once to get a few photos...

Queenstown waterski

...before speeding (and I mean that 'liderally' mate!) up through the valleys and towards the Southern Alps.

About 2 hours later we reached the turn-off to Mount Cook, and shortly after that we saw the amazing azure waters of Lake Pukaki beside us.

I've never seen such a 'blue' lake in all of my life, it was absolutely stunning.

Mt Cook Lake 3

Mt Cook lake

Fortunately the weather was holding up, so we could just about make out Mt Cook in front of us, New Zealand's highest mountain.

Mt Cook view

A further 30 mins down the road we reached our holiday park, which was about 15 mins away from Mt Cook village itself.

We'd had an early start and had made very good time, so it was only about 11am when we arrived, and we were told that our cabin wouldn't be ready until at least 2pm!

The office was also conveniently the main flight booking centre for scenic plane or helicopter rides over the mountains & glaciers, and we were very tempted to splurge on one, especially considering the blue skies with minimal clouds.

However, as in Milford Sound, we were told that bright blue skies are often not good conditions for flying, and indeed that it was so windy today that 2 of the 3 flying companies refused to go up at all!

The only company that was willing to go up had cancelled all but one of their flights, which would be 30 mins long, with no glacier landing, at about NZ$300. Each! Aye carumba.

We uhmed and arhed but eventually decided that it was too much money for us, and we were also put off by the fact that it was clearly going to be extremely windy and quite precarious up there.

It was hard to turn it down, especially as we hadn't been able to really enjoy either Franz Josef or the Fox glaciers because the weather was so poor when we were on the west coast.

It looked liked we would have had amazing views today from the air, so it was with heavy hearts that we decided not to book a flight.

We decided to go into the village to kill some time before we could check-in, so we headed to the visitor's centre to decide which of the many walks to undertake. We'd just got to the centre, and had our packed lunches, when it clouded over and started to rain. Typical!

We quickly wolfed our food down, fed some of the cute little duckies, and retreated to the car.

I can't remember the name of the walk that we did, but we took a small unsealed road out of town for about 15 mins, and then walked for about 30 mins to get to a glacial lake, which had icebergs floating in it. Really cool.

Al Mt Cook glacier lake

That might sound a bit more impressive than it actually was because as you can see, the icebergs were certainly not white, or blue, they were more of a dirty grey colour. Plus they were pretty small... but they were icebergs nonetheless!

Me being me, I persuaded Katie to climb the hills at the end of the path, so that we could get a good view over the lake and towards the highest mountains.

The visibility at the top of the mountains was now poor, so we couldn't even see Mt Cook, which was a shame.

Katie Mt Cook

We considered doing some other walks, but as by now it was gone 2pm, we drove back to check-in.

The room was fine, with the usual double bunk bed that Katie abhors because you can't sit up without banging your head!

At least we had a couple of single beds in there too, so we could sit up and read for an hour or so, which was lovely.

The weather got progressively worse, so we found various ways to kill time until going to the restaurant for some food.

We were pleasantly surprised that their prices weren't extortionate considering the captive market, and the food itself was really good.

We had a couple of beers each (we both really like the Speight's Gold Medal Ale which is really tasty), shared a crumble for desert, and then headed back to our room.

Looking back on the day we decided that even if we had booked a flight, the cloud cover wouldn't have been much fun, and they might have even cancelled the flight anyway just before our slot. That would have SUCKED! 

We also felt lucky to have had that one unrestricted view of Mt Cook itself, which was very impressive, and lucky to have had such a beautiful view of the deep blue lake that morning.

We did wonder whether we should have pushed on towards Christchurch after doing the walk, but concluded that it had been nice to chill out, read, relax and get another relatively early night.

I couldn't wait to get to Christchurch tomorrow (Xmas Eve!) to see my little sister Bex and her boyfriend Hutchie.

I'm lucky to be able to spend Xmas with some of my (small) family, but it might make Katie miss her family even more.

Neither of us are feeling particularly Xmassy (if that's a word), it's bizarre being in a country which is in peak summer during the festive period!

I'm not sure if it's a good thing that Xmas is less commercial over here (you'd hardly know most of the time), or whether we wish it was a bit more commercial, because we haven't really felt festive at any time during our time on Oz/NZ. 

Oh well, we're sure to miss all our friends and families over Xmas as they're always the most important things to have around you at this time of year.

Still, we can't really complain as we approach the halfway point of our travels, with our South American adventures yet to begin, and with still a little over 4 months until we get home to London!

I'll save the Xmas wishes until tomorrow, so until then I hope that you've all got all your Xmas shopping done, and that everything is not too manic wherever you are!

Lots of love,

Al & Katie xx
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