I’m from Canada, and New Zealand feels like you took all the best bits of Canada and squished them onto a tiny island like Hawaii. I was absolutely blown away by the beauty of the South Island.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is home of the highest mountains and the longest glaciers. It is alpine in the purest sense – with skyscraping peaks, glaciers and permanent snow fields, all set under a star-studded sky.
Mountaineers regard the area to be the best climbing region in Australasia, while less skilled adventurers find plenty of satisfaction with the mountain walks that lead to alpine tarns, herb fields and spectacular glacier views.
The scenic drive from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki follows State Highway 8 through the heart of the Mackenzie Basin. There is much to see along this stretch of road including several mountain ranges, Lake Tekapo in Tekapo, and Lake Pukaki and Mount Cook once you reach Lake Pukaki. And you’ll see lupins alongside the road if you do this scenic drive in late spring or early summer.
Lake Pukaki is a glacial lake that has become famous for its milky-blue colour and as the foreground to Mount Cook. I can promise you that Lake Pukaki looks much more impressive when you see it in person than it does in any photograph or video. You have to catch the lake on a sunny day, though, to get to see its mesmerizing blue colour.
Aoraki/Mount Cook’s mile-long summit crest towers over 8,000 feet above a vast network of glacier-filled valleys, and three main peaks rise from the crest. Its isolated location near the west coast makes it vulnerable for sudden storms, which are often long and severe. Violent weather, crevasses, and avalanches have all taken lives on the mountain.
There have been more than 230 fatalities in Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park recorded since then, including 78 from climbing Aoraki, a long, blocky mountain at more than 3700 metres tall, with three peaks. Hypothermia, avalanches, lightning, rockfalls, heart attacks and plane crashes are all listed as contributing to the tally.