Despite my experience the day before, after sleeping ten hours, I was ready for some more walking. I couldn’t help it. The sunshine was calling me, and plus there’s really not much else to do here. The hostel, if you can call it that, is really just an out of date hotel with bunk beds in the rooms and a “T.V. Room” tucked into a dark corner on the ground floor. There’s nowhere really to hang, which I guess is even more an incentive to go out and enjoy the scenery.
This time I checked with the front desk to make sure I knew where I was going (the free map was crap) and packed enough food and water for the day, and headed out into the windy sunshine. Today’s adventure: the Hooker Valley track with an end point at the Hooker Glacier Lake. Return time = aprox. 3-4 ½ hours.
I started out at the glamorous and imposing Hertmitage Hotel, situated at the top of the hill Mt. Cook Village is settled on. The building overlooks the whole park and serves as the starting point for most of the treks. And so I walked down through the shrubs, moss, and rocks into Hooker Valley. The track picked up more and more people the farther I went. They stood like bright specks in the landscape as their colorful coats and gear picked up the light.
The dark looming mass of Mt. Wakefield blocked Mt. Cook from sight for a good chunk of the walk as the wind rushed through the valley. More than one Asian tourist clung desperately to their hat. Cameras were pulled out the moment Mt. Cook came back into view, its white heights staring coldly down at the green expanse at its feet. I was asked to take a couple group photos.
Three suspension bridges were crossed, each gently rocking in the furious wind. And small hut was explored, the inside full of graffiti spanning 20+ years. (I of course left my own mark.) All the while Mt. Cook stood on the horizon and the wind continued to rage, as if the mountain had partnered up with the air to try and push the tourists back. But still they came, all types and ages in their bright parkas with cameras desperate for a chance to gaze at the famous peak and the lake in its shadow.
After almost two hours, I arrived at those cold waters. Remnants of glaciers drifted upon the blue-grey surface and above it all Mt. Cook looked with its chilly stare, aloof yet awe-inspiring. The wind was more monstrous here, whipping clothing and throwing children off balance. It came in bursts that surprised people as they attempted to eat their lunches and take the perfect photo. I quickly ate my food, snapped a few pictures (I swear I took at least a hundred photos of Mt. Cook that day) before the wind became too much and I moved on back towards limited civilization.