Wanaka to Mount Cook (the calling answered)

 

 

As some of you know, back in the seventies, when I was a young man, I spent a couple of years traveling around the world; six months of that time was spent in New Zealand, three of those months working at the Hermitage Hotel at Mount Cook; that time, those halcyon days, I have remembered fondly ever since, and a return to Mount Cook had slowly evolved in my mind to a kind of Pilgrimage status, I doubt if that makes much sense, but that’s how it has felt to me………….

 

 

 

So, it was with much anticipation and excitement that I set off from Wanaka to drive to Mount Cook, and for the first time since I have been in NZ, I pre-booked my accommodation, a room at the Hermitage, of course……….the drive from Wanaka is over 200 kilometers, up what is in reality, a dead end road, not a trip I wanted to make to find the limited amount of accommodation there to be fully booked.

 

 

 

It is a wonderful drive and I was very lucky to get a lovely clear sunny day for it, which is  more important for this drive than most others; the reason for this is that, unusually for the highest mountain in a range, and Mount Cook is the highest, not just in the southern alps, but in the whole of Australasia, you get a clear view of it from almost 60 kilometers away (given a clear sunny day)…………so,  as you drive closer and closer, the image of this mountain becomes incrementally larger, drawing you towards it, as if you were zooming in on it with a tele-photo lens………..fabulous……..

 

The beautiful turquoise water of lake Pukaki, appears on your right as you enter the valley to drive towards Mount Cook, and it stays roadside to within about 10 kilometers of the mountain……………..

Still about 50 kilometers away……………………

Mount Cook, centre-stage, getting ever closer…………………

I thought that it was great that they have hoisted one of the old ski planes up in the hotel’s museum………..I might have flown in this one……………

When I worked at the Hermitage hotel all those years ago, I graduated to the best job there, which was driving the garbage truck, firstly, this job meant that you were outside most of the time enjoying the scenery, and also, the job entailed collecting the garbage from the little airstrip, where tourists could take flights to view the alps and land on the Tasman glacier; I soon got to know the couple of pilots there, and when there was a spare seat, they would call me over for a free flight………..after the little biplanes took off from the airstrip, the pilot would ask me to wind the skis down so that the plane could land on the glacier; this was done by cranking a handle inside the cockpit, which would wind down the skis and lock them into place below the wheels………………you can see (below) the mechanism on the outside of the old ski plane that they have suspended in the hotel, it is painted red and drops down from the cockpit, through a hinge system and then through the wheel hubs to fix to the skis………….magic………… more nostalgia………………..

Above and below………….Roaring Meg, a river that is channeled through a vey narrow gorge, providing enough momentum to power the hydro-electric station that you can see below………….this is on the journey back from Mount Cook to Queenstown………..

They have experienced on of their driest summers on record, I would love to see “Roaring Meg” in full voice………………….

The small hydro-electric station that utilises “Roaring Meg”

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