jen yu: new zealand 2004 - day 11

new zealand 2004 - day 11

back to nz 2004
[ day 10 | day 12 ]
mount cook national park, hooker valley
december 5, 2004
read about the day
SimpleViewer requires JavaScript and the Flash Player. Get Flash.

We rose early in the morning because we had to be at Mount Cook in time for a 1:30 glacier kayak (not kayaking on a glacier, but to a glacier on its tarn). Our gas tank was riding on empty and not a single gas station in town (all three) was open at 7 am. We got some hot sausage rolls and meat pies for brekkie at a bakery and as luck would have it, the one petrol station on the edge of town opened at 7:15. We filled up the tank and were underway to Mount Cook National Park, in the rain.

In Cromwell, I caught sight of some giant fruit and asked Jeremy to pull over for a picture. Apparently, there was a giant sheep in Hokitika (I saw this in my Lonely Planet NZ guide just hours after leaving Hokitika) which I had missed! I don't know what it is with the giant "things" in various towns, but I love it. The road climbed up to Lindis Pass where it was snowing. Jeremy remarked that we were getting quite a bit of snow for late spring. We made another stop in the town of Twizel for gas, food, and a weather report. The weather report said "rain". I asked if they had a more detailed report and the fellow at the counter apologized and replaced "rain" with "snow". I laughed. "It is supposed to fine up this afternoon, but when you live near Mount Cook, the weather has a mind of its own."

Through scant email communications, we were also supposed to meet Laura on this day somewhere in Mount Cook NP. I was wondering if we'd find her when I thought I saw some blue sky in the distance. I told Jeremy I saw the sky clearing. We continued alongside Lake Pukaki and the rain continued coming down. The screech of the windshield wipers nearly drove him insane the night before going back to Te Anau, now it was getting to me. Funny - the sky was bluing, but the weather was still crappy. Finally, I realized that the low ceiling of the clouds was actually reflecting this unnaturally beautiful aquamarine color of the lake! Wow - how cool! Also, what a bummer because the weather was socked in.

As we pulled up to park in Mount Cook village, someone ran up to our car. It was Laura! She was just about to head back to her tent and wondered if she had somehow missed us. We went to the DOC office to check weather reports and trail conditions. The track to Mueller Hut was closed due to avalanche danger. They even warned climbers to reconsider. We seemed to have been plagued by avalanche danger a lot on this trip. It was still wet and cold and gray, so I went to the Old Mountaineers Cafe to cancel our kayak. They didn't have anyone else booked from what I saw, but the woman implied that the weather was supposed to fine up and what was wrong with some rain. Well, I'd had a very personal experience with rain for many days, and I was about to embark on yet another, so I didn't feel any obligation. She was "snarky" and we dubbed her "the mean one".

In camp we took forever trying to decide on a site to set up the tarp. Jeremy wanted to put the tent up too, but I told him to wait until after dinner so it wouldn't get wet in the meantime. We hiked up Hooker Valley with Laura (in the rain) talking about her past year in Sydney, her chef boyfriend, food in foreign countries, gossip, hydrology. Laura is a fascinating person. She was an undergraduate in geology at Caltech the year before and she was one of my favorites (Auna, being the other). We did token silly photos at the tarn while freezing our collective asses off. Then we high-tailed it back to camp. We decided to dine indoors so we could dry out our wet clothes.

At the Old Mountaineers Cafe, we ordered dinner and hung our very wet jackets, hats, and gloves on the stairwell. By now, you know what I ordered. Jeremy got the pasta and we shared a roasted tomato soup. Laura and I split a pot of peppermint tea. Actually, Jeremy and I shared every meal - to maximize the sampling. We talked about bad weddings and the brides who drive them, Laura's plans once she gets back to the States, and options for grad school. Laura has a delightfully positive and healthy outlook on life, which is pretty damn good for a young 20-something. We retired to the couch by the fire (we felt we deserved it considering the amount of mud on us) and ordered some hot chocolate. When we stepped out to return to our tents, we felt cold and sad.

But on the horizon as we drove to the campground, I could see the base of a massive mountain as the clouds lifted slightly. It was no longer raining. The light was failing, but we heard avalanches echo for a long time on the nearby slopes. We said good-night to Laura and set up the tent and dove inside for bed.

back to nz 2004
[ day 10 | day 12 ]