When travelling you end up making mistakes, learning lessons and generally exposing yourself to lots of potential fails. This has happened to us a few times but we are now very good at just rolling along with it. Time isn’t infinite in these glorious countries and so some things just have to be accepted as they turn out.
This happened with our visit to Mount Cook.
Firstly, when we were all the way over in Franz Josef (the staging for another fail). I had assumed (with the vague maps found in the Campermate app we were using) that you could drive from Frans Josef to Mount Cook. As the Nazgul flies they are fairly close to each other and I estimated maybe a two hour drive given the wiggly state of New Zealand roads.
Oh how wrong I was!
Upon venturing into a DOC information centre we were told, rather casually that it is a nine hour drive. My mouth fell open and I stuttered and struggled for words at the revelation, wondering why on earth it would take that long. As it turns out there is no road to Mount Cook from the West Coast and so you are required to venture all the way down and across to Wanaka and make a massive loop back up towards lake Tekapo and finally on to Mount Cook.
We quickly rearranged our plans and I felt rather ashamed at the assumption but we vowed to visit once we were heading up that way from the east coast. That we did and I was excited as there was a particular walk I wanted to complete called the “Hooker valley track” with stellar views of the New Zealand’s tallest peak.
We woke up that day to the sound of pouring rain on our camper van.
We drove that day through the pouring rain in our camper van.
We peered, that day, through the gloom and low clouds in the vain hope of seeing anything within the valley.
We failed, that day to see anything!
The cloud was so utterly low to the ground that we could barely make out the base of the mountain let alone its lofty peak. We went into the visitor centre which is full to the brim of glorious photos, interesting stories and artefacts from the history of the region. There are also massive windows for you to view the stunning vistas with the mountain at it’s centre, beautiful framed by the building. But all we could see was cloud.
I will admit I was a little disappointed and at that point it was too late to even attempt the walking track in the pouring rain which we doubted would have been too much fun anyway. We eventually accepted the fail and settled down to munch on some warming food and drink to make ourselves feel better.
We talked and laughed and still enjoyed the day spent in each others company, very aware we wouldn’t get another chance to see what we had come so far to experience. However we decided to try out a quicker track within the valley to see a glacial lake in an attempt to make sure we enjoyed what we could of the area. It was basically just a lot of steps up to a view point but the views were really incredible, even with the low cloud.
On one side was an indication of the massive shoulder of Mount Cook which we could make out through the gloom and within the valley next door, far off into the distance we finally saw the edge of a glacier (we had had similar weather problems at Frans Josef glacier). Within the lake itself you could make out ice bergs which had fallen from the glacier face and were now floating serenely on the surface of the water. On the way up there was also a green lake which looked rather toxic but was completely natural. The view to the other side was a lower valley which looked like a place where Hobbits may hide in the marshes from the dangers of ring wraiths. It was a beautiful little walk despite the appalling weather.
The problem with New Zealand is that there really is so much to do and see and experience that you are bound to miss out on something. We had done shed loads of amazing things and enjoyed ourselves immensely but still felt like there was more to experience. There were more tracks to walk, more sights to see, more wildlife to observe and despite our elongated time spent in the country we hadn’t accomplished them all. But all you have to do is focus on what you have actually done and how you felt when you experienced the multitude of different adventures you did manage to partake in. And you realise how much more you have achieved before you set off.
Maybe one day we could return and do even more. Maybe one day we could even see Mount Cook but there are more countries to visit, more cultures to explore and certainly more mountains to climb. It wasn’t the first mountain we’ve missed and I’m guessing it won’t be the last but I would rather travel many many miles under the assumption that we might just witness something spectacular. I’m sure many more valleys and mountains are just waiting for us to show off what they’ve got.