Going to Mt. Cook was extremely high on my New Zealand to-do list and after an intense week of Great Walk searching, lakeside camping, and endless kilometers of driving, we made it.
Like just about everywhere else, we arrived late and set up our tent just before dark. It was a busy campsite but we managed to score a lovely spot off the main path and so we were tucked away nicely (we later learned that our friends were camping at the same place on the same night and we totally missed each other – despite hanging out in the shelter to cook and everything! Bummer!). The view with Mt. Sefton behind our little tent was quite grand.
As was the view from the window in our tent!
The next morning we slept in until well past 10 (I had my worst night of camping there – I was freezing all night!) so our day was spent in the scorching sun on busy trails. We had quickly drained some Up & Go breakfast drinks before setting off and the dairy did not sit well in my stomach and our Sealy Tarns hike, which was over 2,500 steps straight up, was proving miserable.
So I sat for a while about two-thirds of the way up. I was feeling sad, frustrated, and sickly and was worried I was ruining Jesse’s day. Then along came another slow moving couple and they stopped to chat with us briefly. I convinced Jesse to go ahead without me and I’d slowly make my way to the top to meet him. The woman’s husband carried on with Jesse and she and I ended up walking together. They were from San Francisco, I learned, and as the minutes ticked by, I felt better and better. We laughed and chatted and it was nice to have someone relate to my struggles. A faster moving couple quickly passed us with big packs on and my new hiking partner wondered aloud why their packs looked weird. I mentioned they were probably paragliders and she laughed unbelievingly. Lo and behold, at the top they had told her husband they were “wings” and we saw them flying soon afterwards. It made me feel nostalgic for France.
We met up with the boys at the top and enjoyed the view and the relief from the climb. They were carrying on to the hut and we headed back down, wishing them well.
Our second hike of the day was the Hooker Valley track – a much more popular route because it’s only rolling, rather than climbing, and features some sweet suspension bridges. Jesse and I decided to run it. He ran on ahead of me and I enjoyed the minutes ticking by without my knee hurting. At the end of the trail was the glacial lake and even though it was a billion degrees out, that lake was cooooold! Some ice chunks were floating near the shore and we couldn’t resist fishing them out for a cool photo.
When we got back to the campsite, we decided to drive back to Christchurch that night and conclude our epic journey around the bottom of the South Island.
I had one last good-bye as we drove away…