A day off the bikes, again, today. We'd booked on the Mount Cook Connection shuttle bus and so set off from the camp site just before 8am. The minibus driver was great, really informative about what we were seeing as we went along and willing to stop anywhere for photos. We travelled along the hydro electric canal system from Lake Tekapo to Lake Pukaki (we would use this route the following day on the bikes) passed the big salmon farm in the canal and down to the bottom of Lake Pukaki. This lake is a bit of a milkier colour than Tekapo, they are both mad colours because the glaciers at their heads grind the rock into rock flour and this suspends in the water reflecting the light. Quite a sight to see, both of them.
At Mount Cook Village we went on a roam around the visitors centre (designed so the windows frame Mt Cook itself) and then had breakfast at the Hermitage Hotel. The visitors centre had a set of books with memorials to all the people who'd died on the Mountain and in the area surrounding it, a lot. There was also a good exhibition about Sir Edmund Hillary, but we went shopping instead!
We decided on the walk up the Hooker Valley, this wasn't s strenuous walk but was interesting with a memorial to all those who'd died in the hills, a very grey looking glacial river and two swing bridges. Most of the route our view was dominated by Mt Sefton to our left, this had a number of smaller glaciers coming off it and we were lucky enough to see and hear an ice fall from one of them. As we rounded a corner we got a full view of Mt Cook, it's hard to get an impression of scale, but it is about 3 times the height of Ben Nevis. At the end of the track was the lake at the base of the Hooker Glacier and the glacier wall itself, you can't see the base of a lot of glaciers because all the rock on top hides the ice. We had a snack near a topless sunbather (Gary was pleased!) and then headed back. It was hard to believe that just on the other side of the peak was the Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers, it'll take us a long time to get to them!
As we walked away gazing back often we saw a weird sun thing going on, you could see a huge reflection of the sun in the sky above, apparently it's reflecting off ice crystals in the air, probably has a name that we'll have to look up at some point.
On the way back the driver showed us another filming location for the Lord of the Rings films, so a bit more stalking done!
The only disappointment to the day was no Kea sighted.