Around Mount Cook, Literally

I may have already mentioned on a previous post that a range of tall, rocky mountains runs near and along the western side of NZ’s South Island …

Anyway, after Te Anau – and the wonderful Doubtful Sound – our goal was to head up north along the Alpine landscape. And the question was: go East or West of the mountains? We still had some time available, and the weather forecast was looking good for the upcoming 4-5 days, so we decided to do BOTH.

We started with Queenstown, located roughly at the southern end of the Alpine range, where Adriana left for another overseas commitment. While she crossed the Tasman Sea by plane, I took the gondola with the kids to go atop Bob’s Peak, in Queenstown …


… where a panoramic view of lake Wakatipu and the Remarkables could be appreciated on that bright, clear day:


The Remarkables are a mountain range located across the lake from Queenstown, receiving that name because that’s exactly what they are. I just wish I’d seen them covered in snow !

Anyway, while there I failed yet another opportunity for a great selfie – man, I’ve got to work on those selfies !!!


From Queenstown we drove North, and to the East of the mountain range. Due to the prevailing Westerly winds, this area, on the lee of the mountains, is quite dry:


A long drive took us through golden tussock fields, closer and closer to the majestic mountains …


… until getting to the Aoraki valley …


… at the footsteps of Mount Cook:


Mount Cook is the tallest peak of New Zealand, standing just over 3,700 meters above sea level. It received its name in honor of Captain Cook, who circumnavigated and surveyed New Zealand back in the 1700’s But Cook himself never laid his eyes on the Mount.

We stayed overnight there , soaking in the beauty, quietness, and energy of this place. Then, the next day, we turned Alfredo back South, driving back through the same highway again, passing incredible green lakes …


… until reaching the Haast pass, just north of Queenstown, which gives access to the other side of the mountain range – a thin strip of coastline, tucked between the mountains to the East, and the ferocious Tasman Sea to the West.

It was a long one-day drive – over 450 km – but it gave us the quite cool opportunity to see the other side of Mount Cook:


Ironically, from that point, we were less than 20 linear kilometers from Aoraki Valley. But we had to drive for a full day, and 450 km, to get to it.

The west coast is truly a wild country, and such a stark contrast to the Eastern side of the Alps. Here the ever-raging Tasman Sea meets the Alpine range, forming a rather unique ecosystem as the humidity gathers against the steep rocky walls. It is indeed a lush place, where Tropical and Temperate-climate flora coexist.

Adding to this, Mount Cook dispenses part of its snow surplus to this area, in the form of two fast-moving glaciers: Fox and Frans-Josef. Being amongst the very few of their species to be reachable by walking, we didn’t miss the opportunity of a visit:


On the way back from the glaciers, I made a quick stop at a nearby beach. The weather was surprisingly settled and I wanted to take the opportunity to reach the Tasman Sea at least once – not knowing if I will ever be that close to it again:


As I drove back to the hotel my attention was drawn to the mist laying atop of this graceful field … it may have been settling, or just forming up. But it was certainly in transition, and it was a beautiful thing to witness:


And with that I finish the story of our first road trip in NZ.

THANK YOU for following us on yet another chapter of our Journey !!!