Bus Ride to Aoraki Mt. Cook (Day 2) 22 February 2006

As I write this, it is about 9pm, and I have a warm buzz from having enjoyed the South Island’s favorite beer, Speights, while spending over an hour in the sofa lounge just mesmerized by the howling winds streaming the snow off the peak of Aoraki Mt. Cook (Aoraki means “cloud piercer”), which was finally bathed in sunshine after being shrouded in rain and clouds all day.

It is a beautiful mountain, very pointed and dramatic – its Maori name is so perfect. Sir Edmund Hillary used Mt. Cook to train and teach his team to prepare for his successful climb up Mt. Everest. According to the bus driver, the Tasman Glacier, on its southeast flanks, is the longest in the world outside the Arctic circles (I think he said 70 km?).

We arrived around 1:30 pm, and the mountain was completely invisible. After lunch with friends from the bus, I checked in, found my space, reorganized my backpack (my bag is reported in Christchurch, and on its way here tomorrow), then eventually made my way to the hostel to post a notice on the bulletin board about a ride to Queenstown. (If I get one, I can stay an extra night here, which would be wonderful. 🙂 Then I took a 2.5 hour walk, feeling literally pulled like a magnet toward Mt. Cook and some other ridge nearby with glaciers hanging down. On my return, around 6:30pm, I picked up a sandwich for light dinner later, browsed the gift shop, then just sat in a deep leather sofa in the lounge facing the mountain directly through huge picture windows, reviewing and weeding my photos from the day, and gazing at the mountain from time to time. Suddenly when I looked up, it was appearing from the clouds, slowly, but surely exposed to the sun. Because I had such an excellent seat, I was in no hurry to run outside, but it was funny to watch all the tourists do that… and I eventually succumbed, and you will be glad – the photos are much better. There was *really* NOTHING better to do! 🙂 🙂 It was lovely!

I wish I could upload some photos, but there is no USB connection here, so you will have to wait until I find a place with one, hopefully in Queenstown.