Lake Pukaki and Aoraki, Mount Cook

Monday dawned brilliantly. The lake and mountains, the first thing you see on waking here, fairly sparkled in the light. There was one of the striking lenticular clouds in the sky over Mount John. These clouds seem to be a feature of New Zealand and particularly the high country.

We decide to take a trip to Lake Pukaki. About thirty miles away. A road runs along the western side of Pukaki up to the Mount Cook village. This is a climbing and general tourist centre for New Zealand’s highest peak.
We drive out of Tekapo village and up on to the tussock grass plain of the MacKenzie country. If they have cars in heaven this is what driving one there will feel like. There are beautiful big purple and pink lupins growing in their thousands along the roadside. These have only been here since the nineteen fifties, courtesy of the Lupin Lady ( google her). But they seem to compliment the area’s rugged nature so perfectly that you feel they must be natives. Their light, sweet scent drifts in through the open window.

The plains stretch out into the distance and in every direction there are snowy peaks peeking over the horizon. The effect is almost cartoon comic so that I found myself smiling back at them and sometimes on the point of giggling at them (OK, I should cut down on the lupin sniffing). It is a landscape totally unlike anything I’ve ever seen. Above this is a vast blue sky with one or two of the strangely elegant clouds. In some ineffable way the whole scene combines immensity, ruggedness and exquisite delicacy.
We begin to drop towards the valley of Lake Pukaki. There are more trees around. Our view of the peaks is changing. We are getting a different angle on this part of the Southern Alps. We sweep round a bend and up over a hill. And suddenly and unexpectedly there it is. Aoraki. Or as the Europeans called it, Mount Cook.

It’s still a long way off. it is flanked by its subordinate peaks. And it is perfect. We pull over and get out.
This is what a mountain should look like. We are looking at it across the lake which, like Tekapo, is a beautiful aquamarine. It is calm with a little rippling of the wind. We didn’t realise we’d see Aoraki so soon and are taken aback.
The scene before us is just sublime. It’s like the ultimate oriental painting. Exquisite but robust. There are some expressive gestures of high light cloud like the brushstroke signature of the artist which is part of the picture.

Numerous photos are taken. It’s like starting on a bag of maltesers, you just can’t stop.

The duplicatus cloud is still there and developing. It’s sweeping curve adds to the other-worldly look of the scene.

We’re just ecstatic to be here……now… the timeless moment.

Reluctantly we drive on. Just a few kilometres down the road we meet the visitors’ centre. The view here is even better, though you do have the car park behind you.

We go into the centre. As usual in New Zealand it is just so well done. They’ve combined it with a deli specialising in smoked salmon. There’s a display about the Maori gem, greenstone. There is information about the hydro scheme which uses the lakes Tekapo, Pukaki and others. The scheme, though big, is very discretely done. We’ve not been aware of it at all while we’ve been here.The window of the centre frames Aoraki magnificently.

A couple of Dutch girls want a photo with Aoraki. Naturally. We oblige and they reciprocate. As usual the Dutch speak excellent English.

On we go. Turn right onto the Mount Cook road. A wide, well made road with very little traffic this morning.
As we drive up the road the great mountain presents itself time and again, always slightly different. Always magnificent.


One thought on “Lake Pukaki and Aoraki, Mount Cook

  1. Simply fabulous! Those blues look photo-shop enhanced (rather well!). I was going to ask whether those clouds were unusual ones when I saw one of your fb pics- they do look very different and smooth! I love the pictures of the pair of you in the beautiful setting. Xxx

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