Day 2 – Christchurch to Mount Cook
After an all-to-unsatisfying night of sleep we left Christchurch. Breakfast consisted of one whole muffin, after which the rental car agency picked us up and took us out to get our car. The car wasn’t terrible considering its price of twenty-five dollars a day. Aside from a few dents and scratches to give the vehicle character, it was in good condition and seemed to be running fine. Tory took the wheel and we made for Mount Cook, our first stop on the journey. The drive on the highway along the coast was not the least bit picturesque. It perhaps goes to show that all those pictures and advertising for New Zealand show you what the New Zealanders want you to see, and not the commercial and farming country of the east coast. Once we got back towards the Alps and on to the scenic highway, the landscape grew more beautiful. We stopped along a few lakes to take pictures, but aside from that, we were fairly brisk in our travels and arrived at Mount Cook in about four hours. The little town at the base of Mount Cook was less of a town and more of a tourist trap. There were few houses, for the village seemed to consist almost entirely of hostels, hotels, restaurants, and gift shops. We stayed at the local YHA (as opposed to the Hermitage which ran about 450 a night). I was struck by the oddity that one would find such a resort-like hotel in the backwater country of New Zealand. Although the village was seated under the magnificent Southern Alps and provided a view of New Zealand’s tallest mountain, Mount Cook, the grandeur and size of the hermitage surprised me. Unfortunately by the time we had arrived, the day, which had begun as a sunny and warm, was now stormy with blistering winds that made the rain tear at your face. After a warm meal, we were resolved in our determination to not let the weather interfere with our travels so we set out on the Kea Trail which would bring us close up to a glacier and provide a good view of Mount Cook. Lacking a good set of rainpants, I was forced to wear jeans and a jacket. I quickly discovered that my jacket more or less harnessed all of the rain that was hitting me and effectively dumped it on to my crotch. Needless to say, it was not long before my pants were utterly soaked, weather from my defective jackets or the rain, which remained unrelenting. We did finish hiking the trail, and found at the end, a wonderful view of the fog, wherein Mount Cook lay. We got a view of the receding glacier, and with little adieu, returned to the YHA hostel. After setting our clothes out to dry and sliding in to some warmer clothes, we decided to embrace a comfortable and relaxing night. We watched Cast Away, the theme of which seemed appropriate considering the stormy conditions outside and the circumstances in which Tory and I had found ourselves. (That is, without any food to eat, for we had not yet stopped at a grocery store.) By the time the movie had concluded it was nine or ten o’clock, and after checking some email and getting ready for bed, both Tory and I decided to call it an early night. Fortunately in this hostel we would get some sleep for the only source of wakefulness was the periodic opening of the door which would cast a shaft of light directly across the bunks in which Tory and I were sleeping. This was of little consequence though, for everyone else in the dorm room had turned in early as well.
Tags: Glacier, Hiking, Mountains, New Zealand, Rain, Travel