To the tallest hill - Mt. Cook

Trip Start Jan 11, 2009
Trip End Apr 12, 2009

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Flag of New Zealand  , South Island,
Sunday, February 1, 2009

It was a long gorgeous drive through the Mackenzie country from Wanaka to Mt. Cook.  The drive took us through three terrain types; flat farm land, to very dry and rocky terrain, followed by golden hills full of flowers. We saw lots of lupine on this drive; there are purple, pink, yellow, burgundy, blue, and rainbow colored.  Absolutely incredible! Most of the photos contain a blue flower which we have seen in many other places, but we don't know the name, sorry.  

We stopped at a number of vistas to take breaks from driving and awe at the scenery.  Once we got close to the Mt. Cook area, the glacier lakes came into view - these are bright aqua and enormous.  The color of the lake was so bright and playful it looked like melted aquamarine crayons. The lakes are similar to the lakes in the Canadian Rockies but more opaque.

There are salmon farms in some of these glacial lakes and we stopped in one for... sushi!!  Hai Arigato! Yes, you can buy a giant whole salmon for $60USD, a huge smoked piece of salmon for $30USD or a KILOGRAM of sashimi for $10USD.  We have some photos of us plowing through our KILO of raw fish... Superb foodstuffs! So the list grows of small farm food delights here in NZ; we have had pick your own apricots, cherries and now salmon.

When we arrived at Mt. Cook it was perfectly clear and all the glaciers were visible.  We did a steep, but short hike up to the Tasman glacier lake where some of the ice has broken off leaving ice-bergs floating in the lake.  There is no plant life in the moraine so the landscape is strewn with rocks and boulders. The lake itself is sullied with churned mud giving it a grey color similar to moon dust. The entire landscape was barren and beautiful.

We pre-booked the cheapest room in the famous Hermitage Hotel, but asked for a room with a view just in case.  Luckily, they were not very full so we got a room with a view of Mt. Cook at a major discount price.  We watched the sunset from our balcony and took photos of the majestic mountain as the orange glow illuminated the snow and ice on the peak.  In addition, the crescent moon set over another peak with glacial ice picking up some of the setting sun beams.  Even though it had been perfectly clear at sunset, the clouds started building up around the peaks, so by the time it was dark, it was mostly cloudy.  We went for a short stroll to see the stars since it would have been a great spot for some night photography, but it was too cloudy.
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