Sometimes being stubborn pays off… who am I kidding, it always pays off 😉 We woke up in Wanaka, knowing we only had one day left before we needed to drive to Queenstown to meet up with our friends. We wanted to check out the Mt. Cook National Park and the lakes around Tekapo, but hadn’t planned this part of our route, and didn’t know if we would have time for it.
I’m so glad we pushed ourselves. Lake Pukaki had the most breathtaking blue hue I’ve ever seen, it felt straight out a fairy tale. There was a stop called Peter’s Lookout (on State Highway 80, about 10 km / 6 miles in from State Highway 8) that had unbeatable views. But the spectacle didn’t end there. Driving down to Mt. Cook Village, there were so many epic landscapes, not to mention the scenic one-lane bridges.
Unfortunately, the further we drove, the cloudier it got. By the time we pulled over at the visitor center, it was pouring so hard, we couldn’t even see the mountain range. Not willing to give up, we decided to kill some time at the center, which the Lonely Planet describes as the best one in all of NZ… and they are not exaggerating. It was still rainy and foggy when we got out, so we went over to the Old Mountaineers’ Café to kill more time and eat some meat pies. The weather was getting a bit better, encouraging our stubbornness. We drove over to Tasman Glacier Lake, and hiked up to the nice viewpoint right when the rain stopped.
By the time we drove back to the village, the skies were opening up to a shiny blue, and we couldn’t believe our luck. We immediately hit the Hooker Valley Track, considered the best day hike in the area. We were energized by the sun, and by the fantastic landscapes in front of us, invisible just a few minutes earlier. We walked parallel to the milky river, and crossed several hanging bridges, swinging in the strong wind. The recognizable shape of Mt. Cook, covered in snow, always pointing the way.
After a bit over an hour, we reached Hooker Lake, a gorgeous glacier lake with little icebergs at the feet of Mt. Cook. We played around with the ice, and took in the fantastic views. It was getting late, and we still didn’t know where we would be sleeping that night, so we hit the trail back. Carried by the excitement of a successful day, we walked (or rather, ran) back in about 45 min.
Driving out, we had to stop one more time at the Pukaki Lake lookout, and this time we even walked down to the shore. With clear skies, you could see Mt. Cook on the other side of the lake, making the landscape even more picture-perfect. We made it to Tekapo when the sun was starting to go down, and literally got the last available room in town. With the last rays of light, we enjoyed a stroll by the lake. For the eleventh time that day, we marveled at the blue hues of NZ’s water and the picturesque scenery, with colorful lupines decorating the fields.