Ohau is a nice little alpine location with a small ski area and near a few towns with some wonderful names: Twizel, Tekapo, and Pukaki. There is a lodge here where you can stay and we ate dinner there one night. Their winter season had not started yet, so we had the place almost to ourselves. It is also close to Mount Cook, the mountain that Sir Edmund Hillary practiced on before he climbed Mt. Everest. It is a rare day to see the top clearly without any clouds and we were lucky enough to have one of those days.
The road to our hike for the day follows Lake Pukaki and the green color of this lake is something that nature does not seem capable of creating. The autumn yellow on the trees really added to the sharp contrast that this region offers. We are in a vast valley that has several dams and canals set up to take advantage of the glacial waters, and to control them in the spring when the rains and the melting snow comes. We drove over the canal and looked off to the side where you can see how high the dams have been built up. A true feat of engineering! The waters are all a bright green/turquoise/blue color that is enhanced when the sun is overhead. At sunset, as we drove by, the water was just a plain deep blue that we might see on any large body of water.
The hike along the Hooker Valley track takes you to the glacier lake at the base of Mt. Cook. Listening to the roar of rapidly moving water as we walked along the path, we expected to see some amazingly blue water with white froth dancing over the rocks. We did get the white froth part right.
Once we arrived, we took off on the walking trail, a 3-hour round trip hike listed as easy. Well, since we’re just at sea level for a few days and now we are starting 2000 feet and walking up about 1000 feet, I realized why Sir Edmund learned to adjust to the altitude. You would not think that this would be such a big deal, but I was the slowest I have been yet and I carried very little equipment. Ugh.
There were 3 suspension bridges to walk over and they show just how many people can be on the bridge at once. Two of the bridges had a 20-person capacity and the third a 10-person capacity. Now, today was a holiday here in NZ, Anzac Day, very similar to our Memorial Day. This means EVERYone was out and they seemed to ignore that 20-person limit. Of course, I was in the middle of the bridge when I realize this and there is no way to get off a slightly rocking bridge quickly. I think that I will wait until most people have passed on the rest of the bridges.
We cross over Mueller Lake and the river on our first bridge. The water in both the lake and this river were the color of…putty. No other word describes it. The glaciers create so much silt and the rivers toss it down and it is just a really strange look. This is the water we hear along our path to the glacier. The water eventually flows towards the lakes, filtering through a large flat rock area. By the time it reaches the lakes, a lot of the silt has been filtered out and enough remains to reflect the sun creating a gorgeous blue color. We canoed on a glacier lake called Emerald Lake in Banff, Canada, and it was very strange. You cannot see far down yet the water is very clear and reflective. Almost like canoeing on a mirror.
Arriving at the end of the trail, Mount Cook stands before us in all its glory. Sharp jagged peaks, glaciers in several locations, and the sun glinting off the ice. We even had a few clouds come through and give us a show. At the bottom of the glacier is Hooker Lake, and in the lake were several icebergs. We arrived just before the sun went behind the mountains and I was able to get a few shots. Just so cool to see icebergs floating in a putty-colored lake.
You cannot walk up to the glacier at all so we turn around to take the trail back. Yup, still not adjusted to the altitude yet but my eyes have adjusted to seeing putty-colored water.