Our morning venture into a shopping centre to buy provisions turned into a whole quest due to the sales which here, like in England, start on Boxing Day, December 26. A little aside on Boxing Day – when I was living in England and first heard this term, I asked a little girl I was babysitting why it was called that. She said that if you get presents you don`t like for Christmas then the next day you box people who gave you the offending gift. Another person’s theory also featured boxes: it was called Boxing Day from all the gift boxes strewn around. Now, the origin of the name is still unknown, the chief theory on Wikipedia being “Boxing Day is traditionally the day following Christmas Day, when servants and tradesmen would receive gifts from their superiors or employers, known as a “Christmas box”.
Anyway, back to us, frantically trying to find a parking place and failing miserably, me on the lookout for empty spots, Mike working hard to stay on the right side of the road. We eventually parked 3 streets away and finally made our way to the supermarket to buy some food.
Our drive to Mount Cook took around 5 hours, including the stops we made to admire sheep (I`d never seen a sheep up close before) and the lakes.
The first lake we stopped by was Lake Tekapo. Here is some infomatio from Lake Tekapo official website: This highland lake and settlement at 710 meters (2300 feet) is in the heart of the Mackenzie District and surrounded by a vast basin of golden tussock grass. The name Tekapo derives from Maori words Taka (sleeping mat) and Po (night).
We were absolutely stunned by the lake’s sheer beauty emphasized by the gorgeous snow-capped mountains.
As we tore ourselves away from Lake Tekapo and kept on driving, we soon reached another lake – Lake Pukaki. According to Wikipedia, “Lake Pukaki is the largest of three roughly parallel alpine lakes running north-south along the northern edge of the Mackenzie Basin on New Zealand‘s South Island. The others are Lakes Tekapo and Ohau. All three lakes were created when the terminal moraines of receding glaciers blocked their respective valleys, forming moraine-dammed lakes. The glacial feed to the lakes gives them a distinctive blue colour, created by glacial flour, the extremely finely ground rock particles from the glaciers. Lake Pukaki covers an area of 178.7 km², and the surface elevation of the lake normally ranges from 518.2 to 532 metres above sea level. The lake is fed at its northern end by the braided Tasman River, which has its source in the Tasman and Hooker Glaciers, close to Aoraki/Mount Cook.”
This lake was even more beautiful than the previous one, so we spent some time on the shore, skipping stones, dipping our toes in the cold water and just admiring the view.
We reached our destination at around 5 p.m. We were staying in the alpine village of Mount Cook, located in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. The second name for Mount Cook, which at 3754 metres is New Zealand’s highest mountain, Aoraki, means Cloud Piercer in the language of the Ngāi Tahu iwi people. The English name was given to the mount in honour of the captain James Cook, the British explore who achieved the first recorded circumnavigation of New Zealand.
We stayed at Backpackers’ Lodge, which I expected to be rather basic judging by it’s name but it exceeded our expectations, if only with the view we had from our window.
We checked in and hurried to explore what we could in the remaining daylight. We went on a hike to an outlook for Mt Footstool just outside the village and saw a glacier 0 first time for both of us, moraine (a wall of glacial debris) and a glacier lake.