Woke up to a disappointingly cloudy day in Mt Cook village. So I lazed around in bed and had a long breakfast and early lunch before heading out. The lodging’s staff advised me that I should just venture out even though the weather forecast isn’t favourable because the elements tend to be very fickle-minded around here.
The plan was to do the Hooker Valley track (what a name right). I’ve been looking forward to this since I read about how easy and stunning the route is. I thought the 40 minute walk to the start of the track would be rather dreary and monotonous, it turned out to be a lovely journey because it weaved through some marvelous open plains. The air was chilly, the land and my mind were quiet, and I had all the time in the world to walk slowly.
That’s probably the first iceberg I’ve gotten close enough to observe its fascinating curvilinear forms. So I sat at a quiet spot along the lake’s rocky beach for about an hour just munching on my lunch and staring into space. I could’ve sat a lot longer, but a drizzle made an unwelcomed appearance.
And it rained all the way back to the start of the trail, and even more on my journey home. Being rained on for more than an hour taught me that wearing a woolen beret underneath a “waterproof” jacket’s hood is the best way to keep the head really dry. Tried and tested life hack!
While I was bummed out that I didn’t have the “perfect” Hooker Valley experience, I took comfort in the fact that I had one more full day to explore the other trails around Mt Cook. Little did I know that I’d be able to see this place in full glory the following afternoon.
So I went on a shorter walk at Governors Bush (this town sure likes innuendos) to buy some time, hoping that the mist would dissipate before I attempt the longer hikes.
But I tapped deep, deep, into my zen consciousness to remind myself that I was lucky to have already experienced so many wonderful things in New Zealand, and that I have to accept whatever the weather decides.
The clouds lifted within the next 30 minutes, and the surrounding lands emerged slowly to reveal its true magnificence.
This came into view when I took an unassuming corner. No clearly-marked directions for photo point ahead, no noisy tourists to indicate that it’s going to be a spectacular spot, no hype about it at all… It was just, BAM! I was really taken aback by its grandeur, and I stood at this spot for a long time just sweating, listening to my own breath, and trying to memorise everything about this place and moment.
And the views just got better and better from this point on…
The photo above sums up what I love most about New Zealand. Its rugged mountains, green hills, vast open spaces, and remoteness is utterly captivating. It’s rather surprising that there aren’t more tourists here because it’s really not hard to get here. Well, let’s hope it stays this way.
I sat here for some time as well, munching on an apple and some Shapes biscuits. Then spoke a bit with the lady in the picture, who said she really loved the peace and quiet here. Well, me too! And it was really tough trying to will myself to walk away from this piece of heaven, knowing that I won’t have something like this for a long, long time.
Now that the easy track is done, it’s time to conquer Sealy Tarns and its 2,200 steps.
It’s funny to reach a landing totally out of breath, sweaty, and unglam, and have strangers taking a break there smile or laugh at you because they were just like that a while ago.
The elevated views on this upward hike gave a new perspective to the same mountains and lakes I passed through the day before on the Hooker Valley track.
At this point, I was overwhelmingly in love with New Zealand, Planet Earth, our galaxy, and everything that made it possible for me to get to this point where I could witness the staggering beauty all around me.
I’ll close my epic trip on this high note. I was really lucky that the weather changed for the better on my last day in Mt Cook, and I got to see the best of this place. It has been an unforgettable 2 weeks tramping alone among some of the most astounding landscapes, and I really hope to come back and explore more of the South Island.
This country has spoilt me so much that I can’t imagine finding another destination where I can access such natural and remote lands with just my own two feet. But I’m utterly satisfied for now; my wanderlust properly soothed. It’s been four months since I returned, and I’m still basking in the afterglow of New Zealand’s magic.