We arrived back at Wanaka with good weather for our walk to Aspiring Hut. We camped at the start of the walk and were treated to the sight of the full moon rising above the mountains and then a lovely sunrise the following morning. It was a nice gentle nine kilometre stroll through farmland beside the West Matukituki River with lambs gambolling and mountains rearing their snow topped peaks above. We planned to climb a ridge for views the next day so we ducked up another one on the afternoon we arrived. After two hard hours uphill we popped out of the trees to find a magnificent view spread around us. We could see up and down the valley and at the head was the sight of Mt Aspiring flanked by other mighty mountains. The next day turned out to be cloudy so we just took a short stroll to a waterfall with a snowbank beneath it. The warden told us we’d had the best view anyway.
We stopped off at the clay cliffs at Omarama on the way to Mt Cook and explored this naturally occurring eroded landscape.
As we approached Mt Cook the weather was clear so we decided we had better do the best walk that afternoon. This was the day walk up the Hooker valley crossing three swing bridges and ending at Hooker Lake, below Hooker Glacier. We had the bonus of numerous icebergs in the lake and ice washed up onto the shore. The weather stayed clear for sunset but clouds started to roll in the next morning as we climbed to Red Tarn.
With the weather turning we left Mt Cook and headed north via Lake Tekapo and the popular Church of the Good Shepherd where we competed with busloads of tourists for the best photo vantage points.
We arrived at Mt Somers and packed for a three day walk on the roadside. We arranged to be dropped at the start of the walk. The first day we climbed up beside Woolshed creek which became more and more gorge like as we ascended. We ended at the hut surrounded by rocky peaks and impressive canyons which we had leisure to explore after our five kilometre walk.
We explored the water caves the next morning which was just an area where the creek went under big boulders. It was then a climb up to a pass with views of the mountains. We sidled around the valley to the next hut perched on the mountain side with The Pinnacles, a magnet for rock climbers, above us. We had the fire going and stayed cosy and warm as it started snowing outside to our excitement. It turned the scenery into a wonderland though it quickly started melting once it stopped snowing.
Another snowfall before dark meant we had a good covering in the morning and we walked carefully until we dropped below the snow. This day was the hardest despite again only walking six kilometres. Once we dropped down beside the river we were clambering up and down over rocks, roots and ridges and our pace was slow. We were pleased to arrive at the tourist path to Sharplin Falls and an easy end to the walk.
We were aiming for Arthur’s Pass but made a number of stops along the way. First was the Raikaia River, blue water between white cliffs. Castle Hill is an area of limestone tors much loved by rock climbers but also an attraction for tourists. We walked around admiring the rocks until a fire started and smoke drifted across. We thought it was planned but when the fire brigade arrived realised it wasn’t. Finally we went to Cave Stream with intentions of wading through the hour long passage but when we met two wet adventurers who had been through in waist to chest deep freezing cold water and then found too much pouring down at the top so they had to return, we quickly abandoned our plans and just visited both ends.
At Arthurs Pass we were disappointed to find high rivers put most of the walks out of our reach. There are few bridges here and tramps all ford streams. The only one within our abilities didn’t sound as interesting so we contented ourselves with climbing Avalanche Peak , just above the village. We climbed above the trees but stopped soon after as we hit the fresh snow line. We were happy with the great view we received. Devils Punchbowl is an impressive waterfall. We headed on westwards crossing the Otira viaduct, built to bypass a tricky bit of road bedevilled by slips. At the lookout stop we were suprised to find a kea poking about under our car. As we saw what was in his beak and all the rubber seals scattered on the ground we quickly left before our car was disabled!