Saturday 24 January 2015

A trip to South Island, New Zealand (3): Mt. Cook

Mount Cook is the highest mountain in New Zealand and remains to be one of the most amazing scene there. You can simple leave everything behind and spend a few days here to enjoy the grand nature.

Taking around 4 hours of bus trip from Christchurch we planned to stay here for another two days. We walked along various tracks which sum up to 16km and every centimetre is well-deserved to have a go.

Reaching there at about 2 in the afternoon it is a bit too late for a half day track because it was still winter (or spring) so the sun sets around 6 'o clock. What's more the base camp is surrounded by two ranges both from the East and from the West. Of course the sunlight is not completely blocked, but it gets dark rapidly. Note that there is no street lamp so it is strongly advised to bring a torch with yourself when you go out for whatever reason. There is a relatively simple path from YHA to a mountaineering themed restaurant (the only one except the hotel), but the rest of the road is simply surrounded by tall grass, and perhaps some abandoned streams, which is extremely easy to get lost...of fall down into some whatsoever structure.

But it's of course too early for us to settle in the hostel (well, hiking is possibly the only entertainment there) so we decided to lurk around. The tall grass extends all along the possible horizon along and road and it is even fun for one to roll down some slopes with grasses. We also found a little circular track that goes around a little hill nearby. The hill is 'little' in the sense that it only reaches an altitude about 1000 m (and the base camp is about 700 m) but we do found a large waterfall behind the hill but sadly it's beyond the reach of the track.

Around the base camp we found different animals truly in a wild environment. Among those animals rabbit is of course the most adorable one and we instantly took a series of photograph on it, but from a long distance because they're really cautious against approaching people. Day before yesterday I saw a rabbit, and yesterday a deer, and today, you. Oh well we didn't see any deer there.

Talking about tracks it is common for people (who used to live in the city) to associate with well-constructed concrete paths with readable markings and maps. But here it's the nature that dominates the environment, and the path is, well, not as convenient as those we used to have. The path in the track is entirely constructed by the root of the trees! Provided that kiwi knows how to protect the environment then such a construction is a really impressive one when you can build a 1:3 track (yeah it's a really steep one and it's stairs throughout) without much effort. In the later of the trip we also see other rough tracks but this is simply one of the best I've ever seen.

Detailed maps about different route (and how rough they are) can be found in the visitor centre, which is, I suppose, also served to be a museum. This is not very surprising because Mt. Cook has quite a geographical significance in terms of hiking when Sir Edmund Hillary is born in this country...there are also alternative plots to look at inside the visitor centre, like the visitors' book above. When you look at the visitors' book you know the composition of the visitors immediately. It is usually believed that Japanese used to travel and hike in the other countries and this is somehow verified here as it's like every page contains at least one Japanese signatures. Other than Japan, German and Korean appears on the book frequently as well. It's interesting that there are quite a number of German living here, and I can't find a reason for that so far.

On the second day we decided to have a trip to the Kea point as well as the Hooker glacier. A round trip lengths approximately 13km so the time should be pretty sufficient if you don't wake up late in the afternoon.

The path is classified as tramping tracks so approximately one third of the path is covered by rocks, mud and ice, but the rest is well constructed. There are three bridges suspending over main streams from the glaciers that gives some stunning view...but they are not the most stable bridges in the world and it may not be easy for acrophobia people to pass through as it is at least 30 metres above the stream.

That's pretty much our second day there. It's still a bit weird for us to stay in the hostel as early as, say 7PM and got nothing to do (because the network is not stable, not even the paid one) but this is exactly how people used to live some days ago. Just calm down and enjoy the present from the nature, and such simple joy is never reachable in the cities.

As a last note I would like to note that the hotel is providing considerably good food at a reasonable price, so you may want to have a try if you want to try something else. :)

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