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Journals from Spring Univ. of Canterbury, Christchurch, New Zealand

2013-05-24 Mount Cook: take 1

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Mount Cook on the left

Kia Ora everyone, it’s been a while! Well just like back at Linfield finals are fast approaching so I’ve been pretty busy and unfortunately haven’t found time to go and document. BUT, I’ll try my best to remember! The Thursday after we got back from Easter break was ANZAC day (their version of Veteran’s Day) so we had school off. I seized the chance to head to Mount Cook, which had been on my list over Easter break, and took a long weekend. I decided to go by myself because, as much as I enjoyed my time with my travel buddies, there’s something about being in nature by yourself that’s just tops.

It was a very long journey both ways but I’d say it was worth it. On Thursday I got to Lake Tekapo which is a beautiful powder blue color. Lucky for me the leaves were just starting to change so it was a lovely setting. I got in a bit late, around 4 or so, but I was determined to not just spend the whole day traveling so I quickly checked into my hostel and asked where a higher vantage point was.  Luckily there is a trail up to the Mt. John observatory so I booked it up with the light starting to fade. The view at the top was really pretty. You could see the Canterbury plains, all of Lake Tekapo, Lake Alexandria (a smaller lake to the side), and into Mt. Cook Park. There was also heaps of wind and I almost got blown over a couple times! However I survived and made it back to the hostel as the sun was setting. I had my usual poor person dinner of oatmeal and dried fruit as I watched a pink and purple sunset over the lake and The Church of the Good Shepherd. After the morning’s trouble with traveling and self doubt about doing such a large solo excursion I was finally happy with the outcome.

The next morning I got up bright and early and made the final leg to Mount Cook. The morning in Tekapo was clear and sunny so I had high hopes but when I got to Mount Cook Village it was rainy and cloudy! Apparently this is a very common weather at Mt. Cook but it was the first time the weather hadn’t worked out for me so I was rather frustrated and upset. I had come all this way and spent all this money just to have it rain! At least I got some really nice views on the way in while the weather was still decent. The mountains surrounding the village were just as beautiful as Mt. Cook. They were iconic New Zealand being sheer and rugged with glaciers clinging to their sides. And since you can’t actually see Mt. Cook from the village I’m glad everything else was just as spectacular! Anyway, when I arrived I wasn’t going to let some wind and rain stop me from my adventure, I’ve lived in Oregon after all, so I checked into my hostel and attempted to go on the hike I had come there for. However about half way to the trail head I could tell that it was futile.  The clouds were just getting thicker and the wind was really picking up and there would be no point in trying to get soaring alpine views with low visibility. In another bout of self doubt and frustration I headed back to the hostel to decide what to do. After looking through some guide books I decided to try the Red Tarns trail because it was close and gained some elevation. I suited up and headed up a mountain on the backside of the village. It was rainy the whole way but nothing my determinedness couldn’t handle. There were decent views all the way up and at the top though clouds obscured a lot of it. Even though it was mildly interesting I was still alternating between being mad at myself for not believing the weather report (it’s actually really accurate here) and being happy I had bucked it up and come. That afternoon the rain got heavier and I conceded to staying in the hostel and reading a book from the book swap shelf. Note: always bring a good book.

The next morning I got up extra early since the weather was supposed to be good in the morning. It wasn’t. I waited a few hours then tested the conditions again. Still rainy and windy. I decided to try to brave it again anyway and made it part way down the trail before common sense kicked in again. I conceded to Mother Nature this time and decided I should probably start heading home. Since I had planned on hiking in the morning I hadn’t booked any transport out of the village so I had to try to hitchhike out. It was seriously difficult. You’d think a young girl by herself in the rain would get more sympathy. However I finally got picked up by a nice couple from none other than Seattle and got back on the main highway with a farewell glance at a rapidly clearing Mt. Cook. I was cursing myself again for not just spending the extra money and staying another night but I tried to console myself that it was probably still rainy in the village even though it looked clear from Tekapo. Desperate to get back to my warm bed I tried hitching again instead of waiting for the next bus. Lucky for me a busier road proved more successful and within 10 minutes or so an older woman who had just come from a painting retreat picked me up. She was very pleasant and we had some nice conversations, she even gave me some prints of her paintings for free! Overall a much easier day of travel then on Thursday and this one could end in my own home.

As stressful as the trip was at times I was really happy I did it and that I did it on my own. Even though not everything worked out perfectly, it was still a worthwhile experience. I would urge everyone to (safely!) travel on their own. It lets you submerse yourself more because you’re not worrying about others or if they’re having fun, et cetera. And even though I didn’t get to enjoy most of it Mount Cook became my favorite place in New Zealand that weekend. Till next time when I try Mount Cook in the sun and some homesick feelings start to arise!

-Julie Sadino

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