From the relative flatlands of Christchurch, we drove across the South Island to Mount Cook National Park. We gradually rose through farm and grazing land in the interior of the island. The rivers became grey in color, containing high levels of silt from the glaciers on top of the mountains.
As the mountains became visible in the distance, we were told that Mount Cook may or may not be visible. Like Denali in Alaska, Mount Cook is often shrouded by clouds and fog. So we were pleased to see the mountains and their glaciers clearly.
After settling into our lodge, Mrs Bear and I hiked a trail across a riverbed (right) to a lookout in the shadow of the visible mountains. As we approached the point, another mountain showed its head. It appeared to be at least as high as those previously visible, with a summit completely covered in ice. I began to wonder which mountain was Mount Cook. We were told by hikers that the newly visible mountain was the real Mount Cook!! See below:
It turned out that Mount Cook was actually hidden in clouds initially, and became visible when the clouds dissipated during our hike. This was amazing, and obviously made us feel that the trek to the lookout had rewarded us with this vista.
On the hike back, the mountain became even more clear. I snapped the above pic through a clearing in the treescape. I love this photo.
Another interesting things about Mount Cook… Sir Edmund Hillary came here to prepare for his attempt to scale Mount Everest. It seems that the ice fields on Mount Cook provide excellent practice for the challenges experienced on Everest. The photo above is of Hilary during his practice days on Mount Cook.
Too soon, our day ended. The night was full of stars and had my first view of the Southern Cross. The next morning, we drove back out of the mountains, but the trip here was one of our highlights.