Tuesday, March 3, 2015

the wrath of mt cook

The Maori have a legend about Mt. Cook, New Zealand's tallest mountain.
The legend involves Aoraki and his three brothers, who were all sons of the Sky Father.
In the legend, as they were voyaging around the Earth Mother on a boat, disaster struck and they became stranded on a reef.
Then, they climbed on top of their overturned boat and were turned to stone by the cold wind.
It is their frozen canoe that became the south island of New Zealand and Aoraki, tallest of the three brothers, who became Mt. Cook, the highest point on the south island.
His three brothers became the alps that fall away from Cook.

As we drove from Lake Tepako to Mt. Cook, I eagerly awaited my first glimpse of the towering peak.
The drive there was beautiful: wide open roads and unbelievably blue sky + water.
I just wish that someone would have told us ahead of time that Aoraki was not going to welcome us with open arms to Mt. Cook!
My favorite aspect of our trip to New Zealand was the camping portion we planned.
In total, we planned to spend six of our 20 nights in the wilderness.
Our camping sites were at Lake Tepako, Mt. Cook, Milford Sound and Nugget Point.
After a huge success at Lake Tepako, we packed up our gear and headed for Mt Cook.
We were supposed to stay two nights at the foot of the mountain.
We planned on doing a day hike and exploring a glacier.
Well, Aoraki sure had different plans for us.
We arrived at Mt Cook and set up our campsite.
We strategically picked a spot that would let us unzip our tent in the morning and be greeted with this glorious view of Mt. Cook.
Everything was perfect.
Things could not have been better.
And as the sun set and we took a late night stroll to admire the pinks and purples, and then later the most amazing starry sky I have ever seen, we had no inkling of what was to come.
Or that Aoraki had plans for us.
We had only just wrapped ourselves in our sleeping bags to get some rest when we heard it.
At first, I was really confused.
It sounded like a mack truck hurtling down a highway.
But when the tent shuddered, I understood.

Aoraki had conjured a welcoming party for us: a gale force wind storm.

I was hopeful that it was only a stray gust of wind.
But then I heard the whoosh again and knew to brace.
All night long, our tent shuddered under the force of the wind that we could hear coming before it actually made it to our tent. Nestled perfectly in the valley below the mountain, we could hear the roar of the wind blowing up over the mountains and then down through the valley we had taken shelter in.

I pulled my sleeping bag over my head and tried to ignore the furious squalls and the trembling and snapping of our tent.
That was until dawn when the wind became so bad it was literally blowing in our tent.
At one point in time, I had to put my feet up to brace the tent so it wouldn't collapse inward on us.

The end result?
We packed up our tent at 5am, in the middle of the storm, after our poles gave out and it no longer seemed like a good idea to remain in the tent.
Then, not 15 minutes later, the punishing rains came.

We said good riddance to Mt. Cook and Aoraki and got back on the road headed to Queenstown.
On the way out of town, Aoraki gave us one final gift: a double rainbow.
Personally, I think he was glad to see us go.

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  1. Oh no! It all began so well too, haha! At least it wasn't a bear or anything—forces of nature, I can handle. A bear? Not so much. I'm sorry that you had to pack up so early but I'm guessing you guys didn't get much sleep with that either. Next time!

    1. I actually had a blast! I know that sounds funny but the whole time I was just thinking: what a story this is going to be!

  2. Beautiful photos, but what a bummer about the storm! At least it wasn't raining the WHOLE time!

    1. So true. We had the most amazing night before the storm came!