Aoraki Mount Cook Adventures
New Zealand is home to picture perfect landscapes. Like postcards come to life. It is where words like 'breathtaking' and 'awesome' make sense. But words feel too small to describe the mountains and valleys and lakes, and what the changing light does to them all.
I lived in New Zealand for a couple of years, about a decade ago. I was based in pre-quake Christchurch, and was working overtime to save for my next move: to London. The work together with how easy it is to settle into a place like Christchurch meant there was plenty of country I'd yet to explore.
That's not to say I didn't have some brilliant adventures the first time around — I visited Kaikoura, Milford Sound, Queenstown, Wanaka, Dunedin, crossed Arthur's Pass, and saw Fox Glacier.
Before leaving for the UK I spent a couple of weeks in a camper headed north on my way to fly out of Auckland, passing through Nelson, across the Cook Strait to Wellington, and journeying up to Taupo, before making a quick stop off in Hamilton (because Riff Raff, yes really).
In New Zealand you could explore every other day and never quite get enough.
I've been back to New Zealand a few times in the decade since I first left, but I've never been back for a trip quite like the one I just returned from.
A cursory glance at this website and it'll likely come as no surprise: I love a weekend spent hiking — so I follow the adventures of plenty of like-minded folk, for ideas and inspiration.
Among those I'd been following the trips of was a group called Women Want Adventure, who held regular small group hikes for women in and around Sydney. I'd casually considered joining them sometime, and when they announced a trip to do a section of the Larapinta Trail in central Australia, I figured that was the sort of adventure I'd be up for. I missed out on a spot on that trip — but a couple of months later the group's first international trip was announced: Women Want Adventure was headed to New Zealand. I was all in. This was the trip I was meant to be on.
Fast forward to April 2018 and with 11 women I'd met in Christchurch just 24 hours earlier, I was off on a week-long South Island adventure.
Autumn in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park offers a heady mix of chilled mountain air whipping through the valleys, and sunshine going head-to-head with passing clouds. Look one direction and the moody, dark clouds make it seem a storm is approaching, look the other and it's bright blue sky and sunlight as far as the eye can see.
Aoraki Mount Cook National Park is about a four hour drive from Christchurch, and it is here that we parked up the van and pulled on our hiking boots for the first hikes of our trip. The hiking tracks in the national park around Aoraki Mount Cook allow you to explore some of the incredible glacial valleys, mountains, and lakes that make up the breathtaking Southern Alps.
Sealy Tarns Track
We tackled Sealy Tarns on our first afternoon in Aoraki Mount Cook National Park. Walking Sealy Tarns takes about 3.5 hour return.... or a little longer if you stop to take photos (and catch your breath).
The Sealy Tarns track is a steep climb — a couple of thousand steps up — but the view across the tarn and Aoraki Mount Cook makes the climb well worth it. Our timing meant on descent we were rewarded with spectacular golden hour light and a pink sunset as the afternoon turned to evening.
Hooker Valley Track
The morning we did the Hooker Valley track the sky might've been blue, but the air was chilly and we were walking against wind so strong it could blow the beanie off your head and your body off the track. Literally. But who minds gusting winds when the views are 360° and sensational whichever way you find yourself facing?
This 10km walk takes you across three swing bridges over alpine streams and through the valley to Hooker Lake, from there, you walk out the way you came.
Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier
An easy, scenic hour long walk... and more epic alpine views.
The weather moves quickly in New Zealand, those clouds that cast moody shadows on the mountain peaks earlier in what was a blue sky morning opened up for a grey, wet afternoon. But we had rain jackets and we weren't going to let a bit of water stop us.
We were coming to the end of our short-but-sweet visit to Aoraki Mount Cook National Park — knowing we'd be heading south come morning, a few of us ventured out for a short afternoon walk. We didn't have a great deal of time before dark, so we chose the Governor's Bush track, an easy walk that takes less than an hour (or a little longer, if, like me, you get super excited about moss, ferns, and fungi).
Next stop: Fiordland National Park via Queenstown. But that's a story for another day.