New Zealand South Island

Mount cook : amazement and wheelchair’s strolls

on
15 January 2017

I discovered Mount Cook, or Aoraki in maori, for the first time in november during a road-trip in the south island with our friend Dimitri who came from France to enjoy his holidays. In spite of some difficulties and a rainy weather, I really liked this place. So when Baptiste, our friend from Montreal, announced us that he was coming for over his two weeks Christmas break, I obviously told him to go to Mount Cook. Since this visit, I am in love with this marvellous place!

But before we can catch sight of his highest summit, peaking at 3 724 meters, New Zealand had amazing in store for us : Lake Pukaki, bordering the road until Mount Cook. I was completely taken with it! This lake is a wonder! At the first sight, the I believed that it was an optical illusion, this is such an unbelievable colour!

Lake Pukaki, so fascinating.

Lake Pukaki, so fascinating.

This is certainly one of my favourite place in New Zealand! I feel so peaceful when I am looking it, even if I don’t know why. Maybe because of its beauty and greatness or perhaps it is simply this mesmerising turquoise blue which is enchanting me? Only the mountains’ call will take me out of my contemplation : a walk at the foot of the glacier is waiting for me!

« Tasman Glacier Lake », a difficult walk in a wheelchair

Unfortunately during our first road-trip, with Dimitri, we couldn’t see Mount Cook which was temperamental this day and decided to hide itself behind a thick rainy and cloudy curtain. When we arrived at « Mount Cook Village », midday was already gone and we didn’t have food with us so we decided to eat at the Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Centre (METTRE LIEN). This is about the only place around where you can eat. While we were eating this 8 dollars soup (just a potatoes soup!) we adjusted our program for the rest of the day with the weather in mind. Dimitri will go alone through the 40 minutes walk « Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View » and during this time, Franck and I will follow the « Tasman Glacier Lake » path. Once this is done, Franck will go back alone to walk the « Blue Lakes and Tasman Glacier View ». I cannot do this pathway which includes more than 300 steps that we need to climb to access the view point.

The « Blue Lake », not so blue!

The « Blue Lake », not so blue!

So here we are, Franck and I, heading to Lake Tasman on the « Tasman Glacier Lake » pathway. This walk has been gruelling, especially for Franck. The path is made of a lot of uneven and loose rocks.

A wheelchair can go unnoticed in the middle of this landscape.

A wheelchair can go unnoticed in the middle of this landscape.

Going forward was quite hard and the rain was making it even more difficult. But what a reward! After I walked a few more meters I discovered one the most beautiful place I have ever seen. The greyish blue colour of the lake gives it, in addition to its creamy appearance, a very specific beauty.   

The many ice blocks and the few icebergs floating on the surface add something special to the beauty of this place. It forces us to be aware of the global warming. This lake just started to shape at the beginning of the 1970’s because of the global warming and of the Tasman Glacier thaw. Today it stretches to 7 kilometres but it’s suppose to reach 16 kilometres from now to 2035.

The combination of the water and eroded rocks from the glacier give at the Tasman Lake this distinctive colour.

The combination of the water and eroded rocks from the glacier give at the Tasman Lake this distinctive colour.

Practical note : there are a car park and toilets, not appropriate for wheelchairs, at the beginning of the walks reaching the Blue Lake and the Tasman Lake. It is also possible to visit the Lake Tasman in a small boat with some touristic tours if you want to get closer to the icebergs. However this activity is not wheelchair accessible as the boarding meeting place is located below the end of the « Tasman Glacier Lake » walk. It is necessary to go down to the lake by walking on some big  and wet rocks. In addition the boat seems to be not wheelchair accessible.

« Hooker Valley Track », a walk partially wheelchair accessible

For our second time at Mount Cook, during our road-trip with Baptiste, everything should be perfect : this is a sunny day and we choose to walk the beginning of the Hooker Valley Track, about two kilometres return. This hike begins at the “White Horse Hill Camping Ground » car park where you will find toilets but inappropriate for wheelchair users. The path is mainly flat and covered by compacted gravels : the progression is easy.

The beginning of the Hooker Valley Track.

The beginning of the Hooker Valley Track.

By following this path we move forward to the Mount Cook until the first walk lookout. I am facing The Mount Aoraki overhanging me with all his greatness and, further down, the milky blue river steps over the first suspension bridge. The view on the other direction open onto the valley unveiling far away lake Pukaki’s bewitching blue.

Peaceful moment at the view point, waiting for the guys.

Peaceful moment at the view point, waiting for the guys.

For me the walk ends here but Franck and Baptiste go forward to the suspension bridge. The pathway seems to become more rocky and uneven from here, it is not worth it. I am already so happy here facing this awesome panorama, I don’t think that going forward will make such a difference. Of course, I am missing the suspension bridge but there are so many others in New Zealand to walk over!

The first suspension bridge above the river.

The first suspension bridge above the river.

You want to travel all around New Zealand? Find many ideas of awesome destinations in north island and south island in my other articles as well as wheelchair accessibility tips.

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