Posting this one a day late, because the place we stayed in Twizel (pronounced T-WISE-L not, as I was saying it, YO TWIZZLEMYNIZZLE) had no internet.
We reluctantly left Queenstown behind so we weren't stuck with a marathon drive north to fly home, and made our way about halfway to Christchurch to a little town 45 minutes from Mt. Cook called Twizel. Checking in, there wasn't a lot to do in the town itself so we decided to drive out to Lake Pukaki and Mt Cook.
Mount Cook is overwhelming. It's nestled at the head of this broad, deep valley with a rocky plain between the mountainous valley walls. It's VERY Lord of the Rings - eerily quiet, no traffic, no houses, just miles and miles of rocky grassland and megamountains. We could see Mt. Cook about 30 minutes before we got to Twizel, and then you could see it the entire 45 minute drive to the base.
I kept stopping the car, making the 45 minute drive a 90 minute drive in reality. I just couldn't comprehend what I was looking at. I filled the camera's memory card and still felt like I could have taken another thousand photos.
When we got to the base of Mt. Cook, we drove around to the Tasman Glacier's walking trail. Halfway up the trail, Heath stopped, and I should have done too because when you get to the top (if you survive the climb, which I barely did) you get a little sign saying "Where's the glacier? Oh, it's under you." and a huuuuuuuge vista of... well nothing much. Mountains and dirt. But there's plenty of mountains back the other way, so I was feeling a little petulant about being tricked into climbing the walking-trail-of-agonising-knee-pain-and-respiratory-failure-of-DOOM just to look at a muddy puddle.
We spent a few hours out around Mt. Cook, and due to the lack of internet and decent TV reception, I spent the night searching through my 4500+ photos for some good ones, and agonising over my too-unfit-to-climb-so-much knee, and which of the hundreds of near-identical shots of Mt. Cook is the best. Here's a couple from the trip to Twizel and Mt. Cook.
Excuse the frames/copyright notices, I'm posting these on my DeviantArt profile and couldn't be assed making new versions for my blog.
The rugged, dry landscape between Queenstown and
Mt. Cook looks very similar to Australia - just much
bigger in scale.
Mt. Cook from just below and to the west. The clouds
pouring over the alps are a sight to see - at times you're at the
right angle to see that an entire OCEAN of clouds fills the western
coast, flowing up against the mountains but only flowing over in a few places.
Looking south-ish from the eastern side of Mt. Cook, just below
the Tasman Glacier path. I'm not sure exactly how far you can
see in this photo, but it took us about 40 minutes to drive to
the furthest point visible in this image.
This view was AMAZING.
So this was all yesterday, since it's now Day 11: Christchurch, but I'll write that post later. Now I need to sleep for a bit. *Yawn*