Day 17. Beautiful sunrise at our perfect freedom camp, we were sad to leave this peaceful spot.
As we drove along the beautiful scenic road to Mount Cook, a young backpacker on the side of the road stuck his thumb out. Stopping suddenly, or doing a u turn quickly are not options in a motorhome, even one as nimble as ours. All I could think was if that was my son I would want someone to pick him up. Eventually half a mile on I managed to turn the van around and head back. He was still there, and was very happy to get a lift with us to Mount Cook Village where his hostel was based. A very nice young French man, his name was Vincent he told us, and was travelling around after finishing his degree. It made for interesting and diverting conversation and in a backhanded way he gave us a compliment we think! He asked if we had children, as we reeled off our children plus grandchildren….’Really I would not have thought you that old!!’
It was a de ja vu moment driving the same road we had driven only three years previous. This time the snow was thicker and finished further down. Once again the views were breathtaking, the muse pulled over Aramoana to Long-sufferings order, two happy snappers got out as Vincent joined the party!
Arriving at our camp the weather started to change for the worse as the wind picked up and the clouds moved in. To start we parked in the same spot as three years earlier, However, it was not summer now and we were in the open without trees or shrub as a windbreak. We moved a short distance in a slightly less exposed pitch.
By this time it was mid-morning, the snow capped mountains of Mount Cook were fast disappearing into the gloom.
Hooker Valley Track 3 hour return… An easy walk our second on this track. Layers on, sunshine, squally showers and strong winds. As we progressed the sun digressed, rain got heavier, gales stronger, we got wetter as we pressed forward against the onslaught. The first swing bridge was bad enough knocking us from side to side in a drunken sailor as we pushed on. There were none of the famed alpine views to be had even if we could have lifted our heads long enough to look! The second swing bridge just over halfway into the walk was just ridiculous, by now long suffering had walked into a rock and grazed his leg.
I was struggling to actually stay upright and almost got blown up and over the mesh side gusts now 70- 80 mph. Safely over Long-suffering already with cold suggested we turn back. The muse cold to her bones agreed.
We spent the afternoon playing scrabble – 2-1 to me – and watching from the dry of Aramoana, bus loads of tourists attempt the same walk – with umbrellas! The same tourists a short time later walked back into view with inside out and broken umbrellas!
Much later the storm blew itself out and the sunset promised better things for tomorrow.
Day 18. Sealy Tarns Track 3-4 hours return. Weather – beautiful clear blue skies and not a gale in sight, in fact calm was restored! This would be a tough walk, especially for my hip/leg. Straight up near vertical flights of over 2,200 steps, almost all the way. I was secretly worried as we started, my nerve/bursitis pain would return.
A short well marked gravel track from our base camp along open scrub eventually branched off and from here we started a gentle sloped assent. A resting seat marked the beginning of the steps. Winding, sharp zig-zagging ever upwards, flight after flight of steps.
Sweating man was back followed quickly by sweating woman who after yesterday had added too many layers. From the off the views out were incredible snow capped mountains and valleys below. Of course stopping at regular intervals to snap away was a must, if not to snap the views, to reduce our heart rate!
Leaving by 7am meant we were the first ones to start the climb and hopefully first to reach the top for a solitary photo shoot. Hearing voices below almost all the way spurred us on when our legs…calves and glutes burning, booted feet….hot and aching, were ready to give up. Our early start meant ice hazards too as we neared the top!
We did summit first that day and like teenagers – once the legs stopped burning – we hugged, high fived, laughed at our achievement. Especially, after ten minutes the voices we had heard below joined us. Four youngsters at that! Handy timing for our couple and their group shots.
The head swivelling snowy scenes surrounding us and the reflective waters of the tarn – a pond on a mountain – were stunning. We were 4,265ft up amongst the snow line….still, quiet, with only a light breeze, breathtaking in its entirety as we drank it all in.
Further out from the summit a large picnic bench was positioned just back from the edge. A perfect place to sit quietly and sketch a small part of Mount Cook while long-suffering got behind the lens each in our own space and time on this magical mountain.
Views down a long, long, way to the car park/freedom camp below….
Forty five minutes later we faced our descent. Easier on the heart.. yes, not so the mind and knees as sheer drops were met head on, the thump of each step jarring as foot hit wood or rock. Without hand rail or strategic tree, one missed footing or trip could have sent either of us tumbling forwards over the edge. The steps were busy now as more walkers made their way up, comforting to see them all young and old looking as fatigued as we did!
Back at base in one piece after 3 hours and almost 5 miles we were still on a high and the day was still young and the leg was good!
Hooker Valley Track 6.5 mile, 3 hour return take 2…. Quick reviving tea and biscuit, packed lunch made and we were off. Easy track, swing bridges, board walks, and glacier lakes.
Long-sufferings rock was still there, same rock same backdrop just a bit more snow covering Mount Cook this time!
Picnic Lunch by the glacial lake as the weather began to turn! spot the icebergs!
7pm Evening Stroll out to Kea point 2.24 miles 1 hour return…. gently winding track through grasslands and scrub to a viewing platform giving us stunning views of Mueller Glacial Lake, Aoraki/Mount Cook, Mount Sefton, Hooker Valley and The Footstool.
Sunset return to Aramoana…..and bed after 31,921 steps covering 15.1 miles and my leg/hip did grand….another busy day indeed! zzzzzz