The race was on, Mount Cook beckoned as the last destination on our itinerary. The drive was fairly good, and we arrived at Twizel in time for lunch. Joe had taken over the cooking on this trip and quickly produced a pasta meal that was enough for six people. We had to use our food up at this stage. It was hot and sunny in Twizel but the forecast for Mount Cook Village looked dodgy.
As we set off, clouds were gathering and when we got to 'Peters Lookout' (a spot extremely popular with photographers as it overlooks the impossibly turquoise-blue Lake Pukaki with Mount Cook as the distant focal point) Mount Cook was covered in cloud!
The drive was long enough for Aoraki/Mount Cook, known as the Cloud Piercer, to live up to its name. Little by little, New Zealand's highest mountain almost revealed itself.
The Blue Lakes Car Park is a good place to aim for with a range of walks. We had spent some time there on our previous visit so were prepared. However, it seemed we had forgotten (or does 14 years passing by in your forties/fifties really tell on you?) just how steep the climb is to view the Tasman Glacier. To be precise, 314 steps. Steep ones at that. At the top, you could see the grey terminal lake, and the glacial moraine. We could see some some icebergs in the lake.
The Blue Lakes is a misnomer. The lakes are no longer glacial-fed and therefore have turned green due to being full of rainwater. The views of the valley below, though, are fantastic.
Travelling back, Henry was full of gritty determination and was not best pleased when I insisted he pull over for a photograph of Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki.
He parked up and I leapt out, Joe joining me, also a keen photographer. We looked at each other and had the same thought. 'Why don't we stay here for the night?' It was a beautiful, capacious picnic area, where another camper had parked right by lake. By now, Mount Cook stood at the head of the lake with a perfect, crisp outline, the sun low in the sky, due to set soon.
So this was our camp spot. We parked not far from pine trees, walking through them to the beach, cones and needles on the ground the colour of bronze and the sweet smell of pine on the breeze. The wine came out, our camping chairs too, and we sat down on the stony beach to watch the sunset. A bride came down at one point for photos. This was a prime spot and we felt so lucky.
Not so lucky in the night. The spot we had parked on was at the bottom of a stony slope and the rain hammered down as we tried to sleep. We had aimed for a five o'clock start but this was suddenly brought forward to four o'clock as Henry was worried about getting us out. We made it. We were on the road to Christchurch.