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New Zealand: Auckland, Christchurch, Milford Sound, Mount Cook, Queenstown, Rotorua
Aoraki Mount Cook, New Zealand: Standing proud
by Prakash Bang, Editor in Chief
This is yet another snowcapped peak of the Southern Alps. In fact, at 13200 feet it’s the tallest peak of the Southern Hemisphere. Probably, Aoraki Mount Cook is the only entity in New Zealand that has both the Maori as well as the English name. Most of us would call this majestic mountain just Mount Cook; but that’s not right. It’s Aoraki Mount Cook. Aoraki in Maori language means ‘cloud piercer’. Despite, how you prefer to call it, there’s no going away from its beauty… especially when the skies are clear.
Mt. Cook (that’s how I would be referring henceforth) is 265 kms from Queenstown towards Christchurch. You would take the highway 6 and then turn right for Cromwell falling on highway 8 and finally turn left on highway 80. Like all the drives in New Zealand, even this journey was a picturesque one – fruit orchards, rolling hills and hues of blue lakes were truly captivating.
We left Queenstown at 7AM. Somewhere midway, near Cromwell, we made a breakfast stop and filled up our car as well. Cromwell vicinity is known for its fruit orchards. The town’s welcome sign tells it all. As we left Cromwell and moved forward, I was intrigued by the sudden change of landscape. The terrain clearly reminded me of the Tibetan plateau! Further on were the famous Clay Cliffs. There was a sign letting us know that the cliffs were 10 kms inside. Sadly, we didn’t do the little detour since we wanted to reach Mt. Cook well in time to catch the glacier tour.
The stunner view of the drive was Ohau Lake. To be honest, I haven’t seen such hue of blue coloured water. Call it deep blue, call it turquoise, call it emerald… the tones were just fascinating. As the sun played hide & seek with the clouds, the colour of the lake changed its hue. The moving shadows of the clouds casted a magic spell on the lake below. Even if you don’t want to, I bet you would stop your car and spend at least 20 minutes viewing this large picture postcard. I have some images that will work as proof.
Though the drive offers good view of Mt. Cook, just 20 kms prior to Mt. Cook, is the Peters lookout. It’s a vantage point that offers excellent view of the mountain range and Lake Pukaki. A picture stop at this location is absolutely must. You won’t miss the lookout sign. I was indeed lucky that the sky was absolutely clear. There was nothing between me and the range! I would like to make a mention, that a full view of Mt. Cook, from base to top, is possible only on clear days. Generally, the peaks would be engulfed in clouds.
Many make a day trip to Mt. Cook. But I had planned to stay there for a night. That being the case, I highly recommend to book your stay at The Hermitage. This hotel sits on the base of Mt. Cook. It offers a variety of rooms. I preferred to book their motel unit. Not only was it little cheaper that their chalets and hotel rooms, but these units can comfortably take in up to 4 guests. It has a kitchenette, making the stay a bit more comfortable. Fortunately, I was offered a unit that overlooked Mt. Cook and some of the other peaks including Mount Wakefield, Mount La Perouse, Mount Footstool and Mount Sefton.
We checked in at around noon. At 2 PM, my son Anuj, opted to take the Glacier Explorers. Costing $133 per head, the trip consists of a drive to the glacier edge and a 90 minute cruise on the Tasman Glaciers in powered boats. Hotel to hotel, it’s about 3 hours. Though a bit steeply priced, this would be a nice trip to make. I avoided simply because I did plenty of cruising when in Antarctica.
My wife Vrunda and I opted to buy $26 ticket that gave us unlimited access to the Edmund Hillary Gallery & Museum and the theatre. During our visit we saw two documentaries – Mt. Cook in 3D and Black Hole in the dome. Both of them were excellent scientific films lasting 20 minutes each. The museum has a wonderful collection of all things of legendary mountaineers – including Edmund Hillary – the first person to climb Mt. Everest. Hillary used the ranges of the Southern Alps as his practicing grounds! Ed Hillary spent many of his days at the Hermitage. Ed Hillary, quite rightly, is New Zealand’s national hero. He shines on NZ’s $5 currency note and countless other things and locations.
The hotel has an excellent restaurant. Do try their pizzas. They taste so much better with Diet Coke especially when you have a clear view of Mt. Cook! While Anuj was cruising the glacier, we were watching the beautiful mountains from the comforts of the restaurant.
Sunset was scheduled for 8PM. I was ready with my camera. Yes, I could capture the golden moment… the peaks shimmering in the evening light. Our day was made. We cooked dinner and went off to bed. I was to wake up at 5:30AM to get ready to welcome the rising sun!
Aoraki Mount Cook Image Gallery Photo viewer
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