Aoraki Mount Cook

If you are like us and enjoy spending time in the outdoors then you will know that the weather can have a huge impact on your experiences. I’ve heard completely differing opinions from people on what a place was like solely based on the fact that one had great weather for their visit and one had horrible weather. Historically Wayne and I don’t have the best of luck with the weather gods. We’ve tramped around Lake Waikaremoana in rain that varied from drizzle to downpour and only cleared on our fourth and final day. We did the first day of the Humpridge track in weather so bad the helicopter couldn’t fly up with supplies for the hut and we made it all the way back to sea level without seeing any of the glorious views. We canoed the Whanganui River and it rained every day of our trip. I could go on but you get the point. A little (or a lot) of rain doesn’t scare us, or stop us enjoying ourselves. As long as it’s not a safety issue we still get out there and make the most of it. But there are some places that you really want the weather to play ball. Mt Cook was one of those spots. So when we stopped in Twizel to empty our tanks and top up our groceries we were very excited to see nothing but sunshine in the forecast for the next few days.

It doesn’t take long after making the turn and heading in towards Mt Cook that the views open up. With Lake Pukakis gleaming blue waters beside us and the mountains growing ever larger before us it’s a drive worth putting on your list of must do experiences. By lunch time we had arrived and found ourselves a spot in the DOC camp where we would stay for a couple of nights.

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Views on the drive in
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Mountain views for a few nights

Not only was the sun out in force the day we arrived but it was incredibly warm for an early spring day. We were all itching to get out exploring now that we had arrived so we headed up to Kea point. It’s a short climb up a well used and maintained track. Once you reach the top you can see the Mueller glacier and the terminal lake, as well as a whole lot of mountains. It was such a beautiful afternoon and a glorious spot that we sat here in the sunshine for about an hour enjoying our surroundings. Then when we finally pulled ourselves away to head back down the valley we discovered that your view coming down is just as stunning. I think for me this was my favourite part of exploring here. That no matter which direction you turned in there was beauty.

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kea point lookout

The next day we had our boots on and were on the track before 9am. We were tackling the Hooker Valley track which is perhaps the most popular day walk in the area. Our plan was that the early start would mean we beat the worst of the crowds. Again this track is well maintained, it’s also relatively flat most of the way so makes the three hour return walk very family friendly. Our little guy found it such a fun track with plenty of swing bridges to cross and rocks to scale along the way. The highlight for all of us was arriving at the lake at the base of the Hooker Glacier. One end of the lake was filled with chunks of ice from the glacier. It was another radiantly clear day and Aoraki Mount Cook is a sight that only becomes more magnificent the closer you venture to it. It was a pretty magical sight and Oliver had a ball playing with the ice on the edges of the lake, it took a bit of convincing to lure him away.

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Hooker valley track
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Hooker glacier and Aoraki looming in the background

The return journey took us slightly longer than on the way out as tired little legs slowed down. But the few extra stops just gave us more time to enjoy the scenery.

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Mueller glacier from a different angle

When we did get our tired legs back to the bus we filled the rest of the day with a visit to the information centre in the village which has some really interesting displays about the area and the history of the mountain. It would have been easy to tuck our tired little boy into bed early after this day but instead we sat up long enough for the stars to come out so he could see how magnificent the skys are here. Thankfully it was a clear night and we sat snuggled together in a blanket trying to point out the few constellations we know. But mostly just admiring the milky way and how beautiful the sky really is when you are somewhere as remote as this. We were leaving the next day. Even though we had only spent two nights here this place has a magic that seems to make the time stretch out. In fact it is one of those places that has a special feeling to it, far beyond it’s stunning natural beauty. For me it felt peaceful, quiet and still. Like somehow it has managed to stay whole. To resist any big change by people. To me there is a magic in that, in a place that will remain largely as nature intended it to be. A place that will remain wild. Our days spent walking around these mountains with people I love left my heart full to overflowing. It was moments like this I dreamed of when we dreamed this crazy life into existence. It’s moments like this that make the whole thing worth doing.

Life Lessons

Any major life change is almost guaranteed to leave its mark on you and teach you things you will remember long after you have moved on with your life. This process of shedding our old life has already taught me a few.

1. We don’t need so many things!!!

Now I have never considered myself very materialistic and definitely am not a mindless consumer. But somehow in the eleven years since I arrived home from living in Brisbane with a suitcase full of clothes and really not much else we had managed to fill our large three bedroom house with a lot of possessions. A large amount of them we had never even purchased, things gifted or handed on to us in the early stages of our relationship that for some reason or other we had kept. I think the act of having to sort through, sell, donate and choose which things we really wanted to store until we settle down again has changed my attitude to life forever. No I am not so scarred that I will never shop again! I have in fact quite enjoyed a bit of shopping lately for little bits and pieces for the bus. But I do shop differently now, I am always mindful that I would rather a few nice things that I really enjoy having in our space then a lot of things that I don’t enjoy quite so much. I am also hoping that aiming for a lack of clutter will make living in a confined space much more pleasurable.

2. I have some amazing people in my life.

It is very easy sometimes to forget how truly blessed you are. The process of saying goodbye to everyone is reminding me how lucky I am. It makes me a little sad at times that I won’t be able to just turn up on these people’s doorsteps anymore, but I have faith that our relationships will survive the distance. And perhaps I will cherish them a little bit more because they are not so close at hand.

3. My husband and I make a great team.

This is more of a lesson reaffirmed, something we lost sight of in the last few years while we were busy becoming a family. Once we have a joint goal to work towards we are both very determined and happy working hard towards it. Next week will be a year since we first talked about running away in a bus, the minute we had the conversation I knew it was a life changing moment and that this was not a dream that would fizzle or change. At times it has felt like it is taking forever to get to the point where we need to be to go travelling, but I look at how much we have achieved in just a year and I marvel at how powerful we are when we are both 100% committed to the same goal. I think perhaps that this is one of the biggest things that was missing from our life and led to us making these changes. And I am full of plans now for us to work towards during and after this next stage of our lives.

4. A house is not home.

When we were trying to sell our house I was always a little sad at the thought of leaving it behind. This was our first home, we brought with having a family in mind and we had loved it from the minute we first saw it right up until we walked out the front door for the last time. But funnily enough I do not miss it at all, yes I still have lots of good memories from living there and always will, but once we are no longer living in the house it really isn’t anything more than bricks, wood and glass. As cliché as it is, home is wherever the people I love most are. I now know for sure that is true, even when it’s a bus or someone else’s house, as long as the three of us are together I am home.

 

I’m sure that these are just the first of many lessons this new life will teach me, I truly hope I can keep being mindful enough to remember them. Now the day we get the bus back from its alterations is getting incredibly close and will be closely followed by leaving day. It is all a little bit hard to believe that it is actually going to happen. I am eager and excited to see what bus life will be like, I can also feel a little bit of fear in the background as it is all such an unknown, but I think that is human and probably healthy.