Wednesday, December 20, 2000
After a delicious breakfast of cereal, eggs and fruit prepared by chef Dave, we headed out for Mount Cook. The 63 km drive was absolutely beautiful with the intensely aqua blue Lake Pukaki on our right for about half the distance. A westerly, 30-kn wind from the Tasman threatened to obscure Mt Cook and, as it turned out, did as the day wore on. Our first stop was the Aoraki Mt Cook Visitor Center where we got a guide of local walks. We chose a couple of short ones, starting with Glencoe, one that gave the best distant view of the mountain. The steep, switchback, 15-minute climb through heavy ground covers, ferns and totaro trees, rewarded us with a sunny spot with a bench where we could rest and see the village below, Mount Cook above and Hooker glah-seer to the side. Only the very top of the mountain was obscured, and the view impressive, indeed.
Then, it was off on a ten-minute drive up the gravel road following the Tasman valley to view the adjacent Tasman Glah-seer. We huffed and puffed our way along the 20-minute climb up the lateral moraine. Although the rugged Franz Josef was spectacular, Tasman was more impressive in demonstrating the sheer mountain-moving might of a glacier. The face of the glacier terminated in an iceberg dotted, gray lake, so colored because of all the rock dust in the water. The outflow river continued on for several kilometers, terminating in Lake Pukaki. The vivid aqua color of the lake is due to the extremely fine rock flour that stays suspended in the water.
The wind, clouds and rain followed us as we left the Mount Cook area, heading on our return trip to Christchurch. As we made the slow descent between Tekapoe and Fairlie toward the coast we, again, encountered rich scenery including la la la la lupines everywhere. These flowers range from purple through pink, yellow and white and line the roads for miles. At places they fill entire small valleys with their brilliant display. Below Fairlie the scenery gave way to lush fields littered with grazing sheep, cattle and deer. As we descended to the coastal plain, the landscape turned drier with irrigation used in the grazing areas and huge hedges broke the winds that often roar across the area. While Route 1 up the coast is not scenic, it provided us with a view of the more densely (but certainly not dense) population along the coast.