Three national parks in one week. I love you New Zealand.
After an incredible bus ride way too early in th (thanks New Zealand, you’re too pretty to let me sleep) I arrived in Mt. Cook village. The plan was to camp the first night, hostel the second night, hut the third night. Easy.
Well, I stepped off the bus and it was freezing. I wandered around the village to find a place to grab some groceries and guess what I found. Nothing. I found nothing. Good news, the village didn’t have a grocery store. It was so small. There were three cafes and maybe three places for accommodation.
It was pretty spectacular although I was going to be stuck buying food from the cafes instead.
I headed off the the White Horse Hill campground which was about a 25 minute walk from the village. I arrived and set up my tent (trying to avoid duck poop). The campground is right at the base of Mt. Cook itself, and it’s the start of the Hooker Valley Track as well. I decided I would do the track that evening and hopefully beat the bad weather.
The track was mostly flat but absolutely incredible. There were tons of swing bridges and I crossed over glacial rivers. The water was this crazy gray color. The track ended at a glacial lake. It’s funny how most people/tourists stop at the designated end. Like they see that it’s “the end of the walk” and they just stop. Yet if they just walked like 10 more minutes on the rocks the view is so much more incredible and you get to enjoy it in solitude rather than being surrounded by tons of people snapping tourist selfies.
The fog was covering pretty much all of the peaks which was unfortunate but it brings out its own beauty. The village contained so many bashful mountains, I would be lucky to see the peaks my whole trip.
After the little hike I walked back to camp then decided I would go to the village for a little while. I sat in a cafe and sort of avoided the cold for as long as I could before dark. I headed back to my tent and slipped into my warm bag. I fell asleep while reading the alchemist, like usual.
The next morning I woke up to loud quacking. Natures alarm clock I suppose. I couldn’t help but laugh as two ducks walked around camp waking everyone up. I packed up camp to go put my stuff at the hostel I would be staying in for the night. On my walk back to the village I had to sit down for an hour just admiring the mountains around me. There was a beautiful blue hue covering the peaks and fog staying low to the ground. What a moody little place.
Mid-morning the sky cleared and Mt. Cook finally showed its face. It was breath-taking.
I spent the day wandering in the village and doing some bush walks. That night at my hostel I had some live entertainment for free. Six backpackers who had just met argued for hours upon hours about religion and science and magic. They honestly were all pretty much saying the same thing but the language barrier was confusing them. I wanted to jump in and explain that they literally all had the same views but I figured I should just allow them to entertain themselves.
I packed up the next morning and was supposed to hike up to the mueller hut for the night. The mueller hut was the top thing on my to-do list for New Zealand. I had been looking forward to this since September.
I arrived at the Department of Conservation to get my hut ticket and they told me they were highly advising individuals not to stay in the hut for the night. Winds were supposed to get up to 120 km/hr (how do you write kilometers per hour? Whatever) and the rain was going to hit hard and wouldn’t be stopping for days.
I was honestly really bummed. I wanted to hike up and be able to sit in the hut and drink coffee at sunrise. But, I also knew it would be smart for me to take their advice. I decided I would make the hike into a day hike instead of an overnight. I would just have to beat the weather.
I started at the village which is supposed to be an 8 hour return. It was flat to start before arriving at the beginning of the Sealy Tarns trail. See, someone decided to test the sanity of people with this track. The first half of the Mueller Hut trail (which is Sealy Tarns) is 2,200 stair steps. NO ONE LIKES STAIRS. Especially me. Yet here I was trekking up these stairs bright and early in the morning.
Step by step I died. About halfway up I saw a familiar face. At first I couldn’t put a name to the face but it was Mackenzie from Bigfork, Montana. WHAT?!? How crazy is that. She was also backpacking New Zealand.
From there I had incredible views of the glaciers and the valleys. I circled to the backside of the mountain and continued on for about 15 minutes before the Mueller Hut came into view.
“Oh my God, thank you Jesus.” Those words literally came out of my mouth. I was taken aback by the reality of everything. I think this was the moment that I was finally hit with the reality of where I was and the fact that I was in New Zealand doing things I had dreamt of.
I hiked up to the hut and the first thing I did was reach down and grab a handful of snow to eat. I had met a woman who had never seen snow so I was excited for her to reach the top and get to actually touch it.
The rain had stayed away up until that point but when I reached the top it started raining a little. I met some guys who panicked when the rain came and said they had to hurry down. I laughed at this. I was unaware that German guys were made outta sugar… Apparently they were gonna melt.
As much as I didn’t want to I decided to head back down so I didn’t get caught in the storm. I sang and danced the whole way down and didn’t see another person until the very bottom. The whole hike ended up only taking about 4 and a half or 5 hours.
Unfortunately the whole village was booked out so I would be back in my tent for the storm. I went back to camp to set up my tent. The wind was blowing so hard and it started to rain. Two guys saw me setting up and ran over to help so it wouldn’t get all wet.
I went inside the public shelter to read and write when the guys came in and asked me to play cribbage with them. They were brothers from Wisconson with their friend from Australia. They taught me cribbage and another card game which we ended up playing for hours. They kept joking about me being a genius because I apparently picked up the games and counting way too fast.
We all decided to make a run to our tents. It was raining so hard. I got in my tent and the wind began to pick up. That was the craziest night of my life camping. The winds were up to 50 mph. I honestly thought I was gong to blow away. My tent was pretty much blowing sideways and the rain was pounding so hard. I had never experienced that sort of weather in my tent. But I stayed completely dry.
The next morning I stayed in my tent until there was a small break from the rain. I jumped out and packed up super quick. Camp was a disaster. Some peoples tents had snapped and many people were sleeping in their cars. (I didn’t have that luxury. Thank goodness for my gear)
That’s next. Let’s just say the upcoming days involve an old jail, a creepy guy, a lot of hitchhiking, and dolphins.