Through Canterbury Heights

After Stewart Island we spent a night in Queenstown before heading off through Canterbury.

9:20 am = And we’re off with a quick travel update post-earthquake.

9:33 = A truly mirrored lake makes everyone turn their heads.

9:40 = Bungy bridge spotted, passed out of view just as someone was about to jump.

9:44 = An attempted sing-along to Coldplay.

10:04 = Stop at a fruit stall (Jones’s). Chinese tourists and heaps of apples and kiwis.

10:23 = On the road. Spotting orchards and making rafting plans. Outside: Snow caps and grape vines.

11:07 = Flowers and rocky outcroppings in Lindis Pass.

11:25 = Lindis Pass Summitt. The highest Stray bus stop. Waving shrubs, photo taking, and thin air. A growing heading and a full memory card.

11:35 = Stories of Shrek the Sheep, a local celebrity and “national treasure.”

11:51 = A river snakes peacefully through shrubs and vibrant purple flowers. Small yellow flowers also pepper the foreground as the snow-tipped blue peaks paint the background.

11:58 = A history lesson about Omarama and their gliders and All Blacks fame.

12:02 pm= Lunch stop. Stale roll and peanut butter. Conversation about college tuition rates and over-priced chips.

12:47 = Back on the bus with more fun facts.

1:02 = Salmon farms with turquoise waters (dyed by “glacier flour”). Passing Twizel. Maori stories about the naming of Mt. Cook or “Cloud Piercer.”

1:09 = Amazing views of flat fields spotted with yellow flowers and a line of be-snowed mountains. More turquoise waters. Pine trees.

1:16 = Lake Pukaki. Bright blue waters surrounded by dead tree limbs.

1:20 = Photo stop. A lake the color of the sky. In the distance, with a “cloud hat,” Mt. Cook.

1:43 = On the road. Still taking pictures of Mt. Cook.

1:55 = In Mt. Cook National Park. Accompanied by fun facts and stories about the mountain.

2:02 = Arrive.

Exhausted (I didn’t get much sleep at Queenstown), I felt like shit getting out of the bus at Mt. Cook Lodge. The sun was shining and the others were excited, so I felt bad leaving them, but I had to take a nap. Somewhat refreshed afterwards, I decided a short walk was necessary. Take in the day and the nature and all that.

I simply couldn’t believe the beauty, yet again. (Is New Zealand, is nature in general ever short on beauty?) The glaringly white peaks of Mt. Footstool brightened the whole plain full of pale green grass and shrubs. The wide skies were peppered with large clouds and in the distance the bright turquoise waters of Lake Pukaki shone ethereally. I think my disbelief and excitement at the scenery woke me up quicker than coffee would’ve.

So I took pictures and walked and walked and walked. I moved through the plain, across a bridge, down a road and partially up the side of Mt. Wakefield before I began to think: “Gee, this sure doesn’t seem like the one hour walk advertised on the free map.”

I look at the piece of paper again. Upon rereading the description of the one hour return walk to Tasman Glacier, I noticed it started at a car park, which was a 20 minute drive away. God I felt stupid…and tired. Needless to say, I turned around and headed back.

It was a much less pleasant trek toward the lodge. The sun was waning, beaming straight on my shoulders with an intensity that only New Zealand’s sun could give. And so I walked. I didn’t bring a lot of water, thinking I wouldn’t need much for a “short” walk, so my throat began to itch with thirst. And so I walked. When I finally returned to the plains, the wind picked up and blew at monstrous speeds, whipping my clothing against my body as I moved against it. And so I walked…

By the end, I was literally shouting at the wind and those wide blue skies in exhausted anger. The mountains just looked on and said nothing. My supposedly easy, one hour hike turned into a two and a half hour haul. Needless to say, I was not happy as I stumbled into the shower practically the moment I returned to my room.

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