South Island trip day3: Mount Cook

This post was going to be called Tramping in Hooker Valley but then we thought better of it. Tramping is what they call hiking in New Zealand. Hooker Valley is a beautiful valley in the heart of the Southern Alps. But put altogether it sounds plain indecent.

IMG_0296

IMG_0295

When we woke up, it was a bit cloudy. Clouds seemed to nestle in the mountains.

IMG_0308  Our hostel had a fully equipped kitchenIMG_0313

And there was even a shelf with free food which was left behind by other travellers IMG_0316

A cup of coffee while admiring the view

IMG_0321

The hike itself was highly enjoyable due to two things. First was the variety – we walked across 2 bridges, several streams, up and down hills, on a elevated wooden path and the whole time the views were breathtaking. The second thing were the people we encountered – whenever we passed people they would smile, say hello or good morning. Whenever we stopped to let others pass they would thank us. And that went for every person in a group, whether is was just a couple or a group of 10 Japanese tourists. We even stopped and chatted with a couple of people.

IMG_0342IMG_0396 IMG_0329 IMG_0310 IMG_0337 IMG_0350 IMG_0363  IMG_0423

Dipping my feet into a freezing river mountain IMG_0414

The interesting part came when we reached Hooker Lake and Hooker glacier. The glacier was too far away for us to see up close as it has been steadily receding and once had been a glacier is now a valley full of rocks with a glacial lake with pieces of glacier occasionaly floating in it.

IMG_0457 IMG_0456  IMG_0534

There is also an excellent view of Mount Cook IMG_0535IMG_0488

We wanted to get as close the lake as possible, and in order to do that we had to get across  couple streams – freezing and rapid as they were coming down the mountains. Our first attempt involved taking off our boots and taking turns wearing my sandals to walk across the stream and then throwing sandals to each other. I think the sparkly bits on my sandals set off Mike’s hary feet rather well.

IMG_0497 IMG_0474IMG_0500

IMG_0463

But the water in the streams was just too cold – our feet ached after less than a minute, so we decided to cross the other ones by hopping over them

IMG_0477After lots of hopping around, we sat down to have lunch, enjoy the spectacular view and take photos

IMG_0482 IMG_0483 IMG_0516

The walk back was no less enjoyable and the weather was just perfect – sunny, a bit hot but with a breeze cooling us down.

IMG_0581 IMG_0588 IMG_0573 IMG_0552 IMG_0602 IMG_0614

We also saw and heard snow falling down a mountain

IMG_0659

When we got back, we had to move to a different hotel as most places were fully booked and the Backpacker’s lodge only had a room available for one night. We moved into a motel unit of the legendary Hermitage hotel. Here is some background on the hotel from the official site:

“The first Hermitage was built in 1884, under the direction of Frank Huddleston.  Huddleston, surveyor and water colour artist from Timaru, was appointed ranger for the Mount Cook area because of fears that local vegetation, especially the bush and the native lilies and daisies, would be destroyed by grazing and burning.

In 1885, Huddleston sold his land and hotel to the Mount Cook-Hermitage Company; which was formed to create a swiss-style alpine village.  The company bought rugged horse-drawn coaches to run from the railhead at Fairlie to the Hermitage.  It took visitors three days to reach the Hermitage from the coastal port of Timaru!  Huddleston remained as manager in 1894.  Two years later the New Zealand Government took over the Mount Cook-Hermitage Company, then in difficulties.  In 1906, the Mount Cook Motor Company began running service cars to the Hermitage.  Interestingly, one of the first was driven by John Rutherford who drove in the first regular horse coach in 1886.  The original Hermitage could not cope with increased demand for accommodation, the more so because thirty years of bad weather and fire had taken their toll.  As work began on the second Hermitage, the first was damaged by flood; two months later it was destroyed by another flood.

The second Hermitage opened in 1914, controlled and promoted by the then Department of Tourist and Health Resorts.  The Mount Cook Motor Company was keen to help extend it as a visitor numbers drew on the company’s services and also to keep the Hermitage open throughout winter.  Eventually the company applied to lease the property, taking it over in 1921.  The Hermitage was extended, camping facilities developed and package tours offered – for perhaps the first time in New Zealand.  Further extensions came in 1924. In 1944 the lease expired and the Mount Cook and Southern Lakes Tourist Company, as it become known, returned the Hermitage to the Government.

Disaster struck in 1957 when the second Hermitage was razed to the ground in a spectacular fire.  The Government moved quickly to design and build a new hotel on the present site.  It was operational by May 1958 and has since been extended several times.  The latest in 2001 which included the addition of the Aoraki Wing and a major upgrade of the public areas.”

We didn`t stay at the main building and only  went to to check in and eat. Our motel was a 15-minute walk away from the main building

IMG_0670 It had a small kitchenette and a little backyard with amazing view.

IMG_0710 IMG_0722 IMG_0665 IMG_0661

In the evening we walked to the main building for a buffet-style dinner. After a big meal and an all-day hike we were tired and heavy and practically rolled home. But on the way we saw two bunny rabbits which was my first time seeing them in the wild

IMG_0702

IMG_0715

Full album can be found here https://picasaweb.google.com/113183527320279302018/SouthIslandDay3MountCook?authuser=0&authkey=Gv1sRgCJmuzo7youCagAE&feat=directlink

This entry was posted in New Zealand, Travelling and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s