We had not originally planned on visiting this national park, but after reading about it we realized we were about to miss a real treasure so we changed some reservations and altered our itinerary to allow us to spend a day and night in the park.
In 1851 Captain J. L. Stokes, while mapping the West Coast of New Zealand, sighted a huge mountain which he named Mount Cook after Captain James Cook. The Maori called the mountain “Aoraki” which means cloud piercer. In 1998 Mount Cook was renamed Aoraki Mount Cook to incorporate its Maori heritage. Aoraki Mount Cook is the only place to have its English name preceded by its Maori name.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park became a park in 1953 and is 270 square miles, with 40% of the area glaciers. The park has 27 mountains with 140 peaks more than 600 feet high. Mount Cook at 12,316 feet is the highest in New Zealand. The park is a gorgeous combination of grasslands, huge river valleys, lakes and snow/glacier covered mountains.
Sir Edmund Hillary is New Zealand’s most famous New Zealander. It was at Mount Cook in 1948 that he climbed his first major mountain, including the difficult south face of Mount Cook. Hillary trained here for his Everest and Antarctica expeditions.
We splurged and stayed overnight at the Aoraki Mount Cook Village – Heritage Hotel with a breathtaking view of Mount Cook from the balcony in our room.
Before heading home the next day we decided to hike the Tasman Glacier Lake Trail which gave us a view of Tasman Glacier Lake with small icebergs. Our non-trusty tour book called it an easy 15 minute walk each way. When are we going to learn not to trust that book? The hike started out easy enough and we enjoyed meeting a couple from South Carolina along the way. About a third of the way up the trail we started to come to some rocks to climb on. Uh oh! The climb got steeper with a greater number of rocks. I do okay with steep trails, but I don’t do well with rocks. I would have never made it to the top without my walking sticks and Bill’s patience and helping hand. I felt like quite the wimp as young children sailed past me over the rocks and young people rerouted around me. By the time we got to the top I was sufficiently traumatized and stood frozen to the spot while Bill took pictures of the lake. The icebergs over the years have dwindled.
While Tasman Glazier is New Zealand’s largest glacier and icebergs periodically tear away from the face of the glacier into the rapidly growing lake, the effects of global warming and other climatic processes are taking their toll on glaciers. The Tasman Glacier is melting and calving at an exponentially increasing rate. In recent years the Tasman Glacier has changed from mainly melting to a calving (pieces breaking from the glacier) and melting resulting in a lake that is rapidly increasing in size.
After Bill enjoyed the view and I pondered how in the world I would ever get down, we began our descent. Did I mention we also had winds of around 30 mph during the ascent and descent? Actually the descent wasn’t nearly as bad as climbing up had been but I was relieved to see the car in view. This was my most difficult hike ever and I was proud of myself for doing it.
It feels strange seeing the leaves begin to change color and the farmers clearing their fields as autumn begins in New Zealand.
The drivers in New Zealand are very courteous. If you turn on your signal to change lanes they immediately back off and allow space for you. Merging is called “Zip” on traffic signs because you are supposed to merge alternating one lane at a time like a zipper.
Cost of living here is very high. There is a GST (Goods and Services Tax) of 15% added to all goods and services purchased in New Zealand.
There is no industry in New Zealand so everything is brought in. For example they ship their logs to Japan where they are made into paper products and shipped back to New Zealand. Products may be labeled made FROM New Zealand products but it doesn’t say made IN New Zealand. Everything in New Zealand is centered around farming and horticulture. One man Bill talked with said a Ford F150 pick up truck here would cost about $95,000 New Zealand dollars. The man has family in Dallas, Texas that he goes to visit and he said he is amazed how cheap everything is in America.
March 20, 2015 Aoraki Mount Cook National Park New Zealand
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