Zen On Dirt

Mt Cook: Perfection of rain avoidance timing

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It was to be a 55km ride on pavement up to Mt Cook National Park. As a top tourist spot, we were worried about the level of traffic on the road. We were also worried about the level of wind, wind can be a real bummer around here.

We made a master plan of getting up early and beating the traffic. It’s very similar to National Park traffic in the States, get to where you’re going before 9am, you won’t see a soul.

So when we slept until 8, we were right on time with our plan. Or not.

On the plus side, now there really wasn’t a whole lot of reason to hurry, which is good, because we’ve definitely structured our trip around not hurrying whenever possible.

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The ride up actually wasn’t as painful as we thought it was going to be. We were blessed with a tailwind strong enough to make a difference, and traffic really wasn’t too bad. A few people passing too close and too fast for comfort, but I never felt an overwhelming need to panic.

The Alps to Ocean route is a bit of a bummer here. The actual route goes up the opposite side of Lake Pukaki, one of two glacier-fed lakes in NZ and thus incredibly blue, avoiding traffic. But, but there’s a catch. The catch is a massive glacial river that you have to cross between the park and the end of the road. $125 will get you a 1.5 minute helicopter ride with your bike across the offending river.

I’d rather spend $125 per person on scones and coffee, so highway it was.

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We had massive views of Mt Cook the whole way, and the day was clear enough to be able to oogle the mountain for the full three hours that it took us to get up there. Well, three hours plus the coffee break we took at the cafe halfway up.

Threatening clouds started to mass during the final few kms. When we got to the DOC office, it started to rain. What perfect timing.

Timing perfect for another cup of coffee at the cafe, followed by a fine spell that allowed us to pedal up to the campground with enough time to get into the shelter for the next round of showers.

Tea this time. And lunch.

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When the rain abated, it was time to go for a hike. We opted for the Hooker Valley and started out under grey and cloudy skies. Even when we got to the lake, the skies covered the peaks, but we could see blue skies coming up the valley, so we sat down to wait.

Boy oh boy, was it worth the wait. Mt Cook came out in full glory, the huge west (?) face looming above Hooker Lake and the glacier.

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The mountain towered over us the whole walk back, now that the skies were truly clearing for the night. It was funny that we’d walked the whole way up having no idea that it was there.

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We hung out in the cooking shelter for as long as we could. We knew it was going to be a cold night out. Having the shelter made it worth paying for camping, plus something about supporting National Parks. We’ve gone almost 2 weeks without paying for camping or lodging, so we’re pretty proud about that.

And to have the chance to camp in the shadow of giant glaciers? Well that’s pretty cool too.

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