Lake Tekapo + Mount Cook
Tekapo was nice and peaceful. Its centre is just a strip of shops along the highway, lots of shops selling souvenirs (woolen clothing) and a few places to eat. But the lake is calm and peaceful, with only the occasional water-skier to disturb it. There's an amazing view over the lake from the youth hostel.
I did the walk up Mt John, where there's an observatory, and visited an old church and a sheepdog memorial just the other side of the dam. Then I hung out in the hostel common room, reading a few Monsarrat short stories from a collection in the bookshelf and helping some people who'd started a 1000 piece jigsaw. I met the Canadian civil engineer Oliver again - he'd taken the bus to the top of Lindis Pass and cycled down from there - and talked to a German girl Claudia.
Sunday February 17th
It was a pleasantly cool night. I had two little packets of muesli for breakfast. The bus stopped at a power station on lake Pukaki for photos of Mt Cook and a brief spiel from the driver about the power system, then it was Twizel again for lunch and the interchange to High Country Shuttles.
I arrived at Mount Cook village at around 2, checked into the youth hostel, then went to the DOC centre to ask about Joe - they said they had no record of him at all, which was odd as he should have told them he was on his way even if he hadn't come across the pass yet... Then I did the climb up to Sealey Tarns - 600m up, with a great view of Mt Cook and closer Mt Sefton and the Footstool. I thought about climbing another 500m from there to Muellers hut, but wussed out.
I cooked dinner (instant pasta) in the hostel and sat around taking to Pat and Drew and a young Israeli.
Monday February 18th
I checked out of the hostel and put my gear into a locker, then had breakfast in the Hermitage coffee shop and headed off towards Hooker Lake. There was some cloud, but mostly higher up and there were clear views of Mt Cook and the other peaks.
Hearing Joe's account of his trip over the Copland Pass - sleeping in and leaving Welcome Flat at noon, climbing 1600m, doing the descent from the pass in twilight, losing a crampon and having to self-arrest on an ice-face, not to mention a hairy knife-edge ridge descent the day after that, all the while knowing he hadn't registered the walk with DOC and that no one was going to go looking for him if he sprained an ankle and couldn't walk out! - I decided it was a damn good thing I had wussed on that one.
We wandered up to Kea Point to have lunch, watching the clouds billowing over the main divide from the west, and then walked back to the village and the DOC centre. Joe had been thinking about going up to Muellers Hut for the night, but decided against it. So he went to hitch back to Christchurch, while I did the pleasant little Governors Bush walk, had a coffee, ran into Claudia from Tekapo, and waited for my bus at 4.15pm.
The Mount Cook shuttle dropped me off at the crossroads instead of at Twizel, but forgot to tell the driver of the Atomic shuttle I was connecting to - and I only just managed to stop that when it came whizzing by. It was a long but uneventful bus ride to Christchurch, during which the driver screened the film Erin Brokovich, a fortuitous choice - a decent film but one I'd seen before, so I could tune in and out comfortably.