We’re entering our final month on Aotearoa, and we are heeding the lessons we’ve learned in our first five months here. As a result we are taking our sweet time to soak up the best part about New Zealand: the natural beauty.
We took our time leaving Tekapo. The freedom to sleep in is not something to be taken for granted. We lingered in a cafe over a five dollar flat white, and said our goodbyes to our Te Araroa friends, whom we ran into again. There was a bite to the wind and we were not in a rush to face it, though we knew we eventually must.
Lake Tekapo glowed its unnatural blue color under the snow covered hills as we watched drivers mime their excuses to us as they whizzed by. Pointing left or right means they aren’t going far. Open palms means it’s out of their hands. I can tell if they are not pulling over before they pass. If I am in a good mood I open my thumbed hand to wave and I smile, absolving them of any guilt. “No worries, I will get there eventually.” If it is raining I will hold my thumb up high and look them in the eye as they pass with no hint of a smirk on my face. I am hoping to crush them with guilt.
We were all smiles when the German tourist pulled over and made room for us. We had thought to just skip to the next lake over, Lake Pukaki, but when he told us he was going to Aoraki (Mount Cook), we told him we’d be happy to join him.
The drive to Aoraki took us alongside Lake Pukaki for 50km. The day was so absolutely stunning with puffy white clouds dancing shadows on the lake and hills, and the lake glowing grey blue. All the scenic vistas we passed were littered with the rented camper vans of gawking tourists. We stopped frequently to gape and awe alongside them.
Our driver stopped at a campground at the end of the lake and decided to stay there for the night. We decided to press on to Mount Cook Village, and it’s a damned good thing we did, too. We spent two nights at the DOC campground at Aoraki and the only time it was clear enough to see the stunning mountains was our first evening, and an hour the next morning. In spite of the hopeful weather forecasts, the national park stayed socked in and misty the rest of our time there.
We climbed the steep trail that goes to Muller Hut. We got a nice view of the valley as we ascended, but actually could see less of the mountains as we approached the low lying clouds that were just over head. We made it up to the snow line and turned back. There was naught to be gained by continuing except for, perhaps, a twisted ankle.
We never got so see Mount Cook, the tallest mountain in Aotearoa. It didn’t matter though. The national park became one of my favorite places.