Monday, March 9, 2009

Mt. Cook's a bust

When we left Methven, we stopped for some awesome hikes along the way. First we went to the Puddinghill reserve and hiked down to a stream - by the way, Kiwis don't believe in switchbacks so it's straight-up and straight-down! We then drove up to NZ's largest ski field which is only a gravel road and guess what? Yup, straight-up. Our van seemed to be at the edge of its limits on that one! Apparently in the winter you can bungie jump with your snowboard or skis. Crazy. Next we drove about an hour south to get back on Robin's itinerary to hike in the Peel Forest. It was awesome. They classify the tramps as either walks, so somewhat easy well-formed trails, or trekking routes, which require much more gear and skill. Well, the "easy" walk required walking through (not across) numerous streams,

climbing straight up, straight down, straight up, you get the picture. It was fun, but like I said, these Kiwis don't believe in switchbacks.

On the way to the Peel Forest, we saw fields and fields full of elk - it was like having our elk refuge tour again! Ok Jackson Hole, here is a lesson on the global economy. Unless you shot it yourself, the elk steak you are eating right now probably came from here.

After the hike, we made it to Fairlie, where the next day while searching for such things as a cash machine, chilly bin, etc... where the phrase, "No... not in Fairlie" was the standard answer. It's not quite the back of beyond but....  

After breakfast, we left Fairlie for Lake Tekapo and Mt. Cook. Lake Tekapo was somewhat disappointing, though the lake was pretty. The busloads of tourists didn't help, and the hikes surrounding the lake looked a little too barren for our tastes. So it was onward to Mt. Cook.

Just outside of Lake Tekapo, we picked up a young German hitchhiker to take to Twizel (twhy-zl). He was 18, and had taken a year off highschool to travel the world. He wasn't getting along with the teachers and was screwing up in school, so his mom sent him with a backpack and little cash to go work and travel. So he went to Australia, NZ, and was heading to China, Mongolia, Russia, then would hitch-hike back to Germany in time for school to start. It makes our adventure pretty puny, huh? Note to any frustrated teenagers - you could just complain all day or you could get yourself out into the world and check it out!  

Stunning Lake Pukaki leads up to the Southern Alps and Mt. Cook. We couldn't see Mt. Cook yet, but were getting pretty excited about getting closer. The last 50km of lake started storming, with strong winds, rain, etc...At the Alpine village it became clear that we would not be able to see one of the largest and most scenic mountains in NZ. We sucked it up, and walked up to the Tasman glacier. You couldn't actually see the glacier, but the lake at the head of it had cool icebergs floating around. On a clear day, it was supposed to have stunning views of Mt. Cook, but considering we could barely stand upright in the wind and rain, no luck with the view.

Giving up, we headed to a campground with a bar and restaurant. Good thing too, because we were total amateurs and only had a few warm beers and a bottle of white wine left! Well, the "bar" wasn't a bar at all!! It was BYOB(bring your own beer/booze), or buy an expensive entree and get one glass of beer or wine, but no more. What the??? I accused them of false advertising, and we were off to drink crappy white wine. To top it off, they wouldn't let us use our own cooker, so we had to pack all our pots, pans, food, oil, spices, cutlery, plates, warm beer, the share kitchen where we elbowed our way through the other tourists to attempt to use broken hotplates. It was then that we knew Mt. Cook was a bust. So we're off to the Coast to see some penguins, and good riddance! The stormy mountains were pretty, though :-)

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