Mt. Cook/Tekapo

Day #5: Mt Cook

Journal #5: Mt Cook
Date: 3/6/16
Cover Photo: “Dreams with a Suitcase”
Sheep Spotted: ~300 (and they were all in one huge pen!)

Today I tramped the Hooker twice and became a Chinese celebrity.

Let me explain…

Hungover, with the smell of that shitty ale still fresh on my breath (see previous post about the beer worse than toilet water) I hit the road this morning at about 7am for the 3-hour drive to Mt. Cook- which depending on who you ask is also known as Aoraki.

Little history there- similar in the United States where we have Christopher Columbus, the south Pacific has an explorer named Capt. James Cook. Also similar to Columbus is the complicated legacy he leaves behind: was he the beginning of the glorious westernization of the native peoples (‘Maori’) of New Zealand or he did he displace thousands of people and cause genocide by spreading European born plagues?

What is not complicated about Capt Cook is that he never actually saw or went anywhere near what the natives call “Aoraki,” the tallest mountain in New Zealand at 12,000 or so feet. New Zealand is currently in the process of restoring Maori culture- so thus now every sign (as far as I can see) says “Aoraki/Mt Cook,” because apparently naming a mountain after a white European who never saw the mountain was not cool with the natives.

But I digress… the most famous trail within Mt Cook is known as “Hooker Valley”- which is far as I can tell (by that I mean I skimmed the first page of a Google search) is not named after anything in particular. Hooker Valley is where today’s photo was taken from- and I ended up having to hike the trail twice today, because the first time the weather changed from sunshine and rainbows to massive storm with fog while I was hiking.

The weather up here is quite volatile- while I was hiking the second time, over the course of 2 hours it went from drizzling, to sunshine, to pouring, to no rain but heavy fog, to clear again, to back to drizzling. Cliff notes version: It was all right, then it sucked, and then it got better.

If normally the make-up of tourism (pulling from my blog two days ago) is 40% Chinese, in Aoraki it is more like 70%. While out tramping on the Hooker, I was constantly trying to stay ahead of one massive group of selfie-stick wielding Chinese tourists (at least 25- plus one bloke who was taking photos with his iPad in the rain with no case…).

To do this, I started taking more unorthodox routes to my photo spots- the two most memorable being: 1) chucking my tripod up the side of a cliff so I could rock climb to the top and take today’s photo (glad the one worked out- I would have felt realllly stupid otherwise) and then 2) Jumping from rock to rock in about a 25 foot wide stretch of rapids so I could place my tripod exactly in the middle of the river.

While I was doing this, I started to notice that more and more of the Chinese tourists began taking photos of me doing these stunts- including one fellow who insisted on taking a selfie with me while I was precariously balanced on two rocks in the middle of the rapids (Unfortunately for him, he ended up falling into the water. I however, like Jesus and Percy Jackson, stayed dry).

This went on for about 45-minutes: me doing stupid photographer things, them documenting me along the way. Given the sheer number of tags I’m expecting from this, I’m guessing by the next time I visit China, I’ll be a full-blown celebrity!

Anywho- as you can see form the photo, Mt. Cook was mostly covered in clouds today. Tomorrow morning, I may attempt the Hooker one more time to see if I can get a awesome shot of the mountain. Otherwise- back to Queenstown!



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