Zen On Dirt

A Day in Mt Cook National Park

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Oooh-eee, last night was cold. We woke up to a solid layer of frost all over everything. I knew this was happening before getting out of the tent because of the painful toes that I started experiencing long before the sun wanted to come up. Maybe someday I’ll figure out how to keep my feet warm…but probably not. Too much damage to the little tootsies over too many years. C’est la vie. I love you little tootsies.


Our master plan (we always have a plan, we just rarely stick to it) was to go to the DOC office as soon as they opened in order to file our intentions to going out to the three bunk Ball Glacier Hut. At 8:45 when we finally rode over, 15 minutes after opening, we found that another group of three had already spoken for the bunks. Drat.

Win some. Lose some.

We went to a different cafe, this one in the fancy-pants hotel to get a coffee and make a new Master Plan. The day was beautiful, the day was young, the opportunities were endless.

And we happen to be opportunists.

The wind forecast for the next day looks terrible for trying to ride out from the park. The rain forecast for the following morning also looked dire. But there, there in a four hour window late in the afternoon this afternoon, the wind shifted for a few hours, going down valley.

When opportunities present themselves…


But first, there was hiking to do in the form of 2,200 wooden steps up to the Sealy Tarns. They love their steep-ass trails here, and I love going up them.

We could have gone higher to the Mueller Hut for lunch, but we were pretty happy with the half-way view. We lounged in the sun, willing a giant block of ice that was precariously perched on the glacier across the valley to fall and make a big boom. It didn’t, but we saw some smaller pieces of ice fall and make still significant booms.

Glaciers are cool.


Next up was a ‘charge stuff up and do internet-y’ stuff break at the fancy cafe. I’ve never really thought about getting a dynamo hub for charging before this trip…but I’m starting to see the appeal. I’d love to see my iPad at over 50% charge…but that may be a pipe dream that won’t be fulfilled till we get home. It seems like most cafes in NZ make a point of not having power outlets, and doling out Internet usage in 50mb vouchers in order to keep people from sitting around for ever and taking up tables.

When we find a coffee shop with both unlimited internet and power, we become loyal customers. Generally, the internet will still suck. Internet here really is 10 years behind the States, for better or worse.


Anyhow, we pedaled down to the Tasman Glacier and did a little hike on our way out of the park. It’s the largest glacier in NZ and retreating rapidly, sadly. All of the glaciers are retreating rapidly.


Finally, after much delay, it was time to pedal down the road. We knew we wouldn’t make it all the way to the end of Lake Pukaki, but we hoped to find some sort of camping along the way. It was a solid 7pm departure from the park.


And the roads were empty! And the weather forecast had been right, the winds had shifted and were pushing us along solidly. Win. Big win. It was as enjoyable as any pavement could possibly be. When we got tired at looking at the giant lake ahead, all we had to do was look behind us to see the sunset golden light on Mt Cook.


Things only started to look dire for finding camping near the end. We’d been bordered by private land for the last 10km, and it was starting to threaten to get darkish.

But I’d remembered a DOC land sign just a few kms from the lakes end. Could we make it? Of course we could. It’s light forever here.

After a short hike-a-bike up a trail off the highway, we found ourselves the most perfect campsite of this trip. A giant boulder to shelter us from the wind. Big views of Mt Cook. And pink clouds changing with the last of the light.

What a day. Turned out, not getting into that hut turned out just fine.


One thought on “A Day in Mt Cook National Park

  1. Hi Ez, try down socks – small, not heavy, but they add incredible comfort. I never had cold feet again! Mine are from Nordisk, but I am sure there are many suppliers! Greetings from NZ, great report from your trip!

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