Yet another early start, 06:00 to catch the 06:45 to Mount Cook Village, though it didn’t arrive until 07:10. It was a marvellous old bus, an early post-war austerity model with no suspension but the driver made no concessions to age and hammered up the long gradual rise. This was principally a service to take workers up to the village, tourists being an useful source of extra revenue.
Mountains attract clouds and Mount Cook at 3754m was suitably shrouded.
We called in at the Hermitage Hotel café for a second breakfast, the first having been somewhat rushed. The locals had warned us it was expensive so we weren’t prepared for unlimited coffee for $2.95 – the current exchange rate of just over three dollars to the pound was good news for British visitors!
Outside a flock of Keas were laying waste to the rubber sealant on car windows. This native bird is prone to carrying off shiny objects such as bike tools and prefers an adventurous diet – tents and bike tyres are not immune!
We were surprised how quiet it was, forgetting it was also very early in the day. We took the Hooker Valley trail and the rising sun soon burnt off the cloud to gradually reveal Mt Sefton then Mt Cook topped with glaciers, remnants of the last ice age. It was a relaxing four hour walk, fairly level, crossing fast-flowing glacial rivers by suspension bridges and finishing up by the Hooker Lake where chunks of the glacier were floating in the icy water.
On the way back we took a short spur to Kea Point for a different angle on Mt Cook and to view the moraines before revisiting the café. It was very busy by this time, the coach parties and motorists having arrived. The locals laughed as we boarded the bus and reminded us to stand up for the bumps!
Back at Twizel we dashed round the supermarket before starting our 31km ride to Omerama at 18:15. The road was pretty much level so despite a slight headwind we were there for 19:30 to pitch our tent at the motor park. A group of grizzly old US fishermen were staying, one was describing the art of stalking a fish in great detail to a less experienced New Zealander – just like a Hollywood film! Then we got talking and he told us the Lindis Pass was the only place in NZ where cars regularly overheat – we assumed he was joking.
It was late by the time we struggled into our tiny 1/2 man tent, the first time we’d used it. We’d only brought it because later in the holiday we’d have to camp for one night but we thought we’d better try it out while there was an alternative.