2/22 Visions of Mt Cook

Lake Tekapo Village to Pines Camping Area

43 k

At quarter to seven we are the first ones moving about the hostel. All is quiet in the pre-dawn twilight, and the on-demand water boiler makes coffee a case of instant gratification. Breakfast is whole grain toast with avocados, a few poached eggs from the hostel’s chickens, New Zealand pears, and bananas. Well fed and well-layered, we head out into the morning.

It is really chilly this morning, chilly enough that after half an hour of hiking I have to stop and dig out my gloves. The air is bitingly crisp and bracingly fresh, though, and I find invigorating. Quite a few pines sporadically line the road, releasing their sharp clean smell in waves.

The clouds are a low ceiling, concealing the peaks around us, but not quite low enough to veil the thick white snow that blankets them.

Our whole day will be on the Alps 2 Ocean cycleway, a mostly gravel and occasionally paved flat walkway. We follow it away from the hostel and across the dam on the lower end of Lake Tekapo, and from there it leads generally south with the rocky rushing river on one side, and the placid canal on the other, both of them the same bright opaque turquoise. The trees are bright greens, almost yellows, and the dark and white contrasting far background complete the beautiful scenery.

My legs and feet feel mostly refreshed after the long forced break, and I am thrilled with the easy mindless walking. I am also thrilled to discover great cell reception, and call my aunt, Mom, and brother and average an hour each. Caroline and Justin pedal by on their bikes, Caroline thoughtfully asking how I am doing after I had confided that I am motivationally/emotionally struggling. For whatever reason, today is great. Perhaps the break was indeed just as (or more) necessary for my mind as it was for my body. I return with great relish to the audiobook Ready Player One. I eat a fresh crisp apple for a snack. The first 21 k’s of the day fly by without much of a break, or need for one.

Lunch is a loaf of dark German rye bread and pumpkin/kumara hummus with roasted red peppers and cumin. Lunch dessert is Manuka honey on any bread that is left once the hummus was gone.

In the afternoon, with the sun out and clouds dissipating, the depth of blue in the sky gets deeper, framing Mt Cook and the other momentarily snowy peaks even more dramatically.

The kilometers continue to tick away after lunch, although my feet begin to hurt again. Prana’s starting hurting before lunch, and plague him increasingly as the day accumulates. We pass a salmon farm situated in the middle of the canal, which strikes me as a bit gross. The sun is now beating down hot, and the gulls circle and scream above the floating docks, many of which sport a scarecrow. Or scaregull, I suppose. Signs frequently admonish hikers to use the provided honey buckets, and when I duck in one to pee, it’s like entering a mummy tomb: the inside is simply layered with spiderwebs and their creators, and the toilet bowl itself is an overflowing mound. Gag. I wonder if this is an innocent oversight, or a passive-aggressive message to not hike here, analogous to the Lake Coleridge area.

We follow the cycle way to the end of the canal, where the water disappears into pipes through which it is dropped over power turbines into Pukaki Lake, and walk across the waterless gap to the new shore. We collect water from an overflow drain, and I try to repress the thought of an overpopulation of farmed salmon ejecting waste onto the water just above as I send up gratitude for the magic technology of water filters.

Pukaki Lake is the same polished gem color, and especially with the snow capped ranges in the backdrop and golden meadow grasses in the foreground, it is a beautiful lake to walk the shore of.

The generously wide shoulder of the lake-front road keeps the travel pleasant, and when the path diverges from pavement again, there is a picnic table and lovely view across the turquoise waters.

The three of us gather our tenacity about us, and after a nice long break, head into the homestretch towards the pines camp, noted on our map as the only place to camp between Tekapo and Twizel, passing many inviting tent sized spaces around picnic tables, hoping the pines area will be as nice as these.

When we reach the pines camping area, it is filled with campervans and cars with tents pitched next to them. All the spots in the actual pine trees themselves are taken, so we hunt until we find a hilltop that has a flat clear space, and designate it home. What doesn’t make any sense about this place is the fact of a set of outhouses on one hill, a brand new bank of bathrooms below our hill, and there is still toilet paper, and shit, everywhere. I cannot fathom this, or the rampant lack of personal accountability to both the environment and fellow campers that this speaks of. I also feel resentful that this was presented as the only place to camp, as we passed all the clean, and quiet, and apparently legal, areas on the lakeshore to get here.

Prana goes to collect water from the lake, and I pitch the tent and start dinner- one of the Thai flavored rice meals, but this time with a head of pre-chopped broccoli in it. Let’s hear it for Broccoli! Let’s hear it for green plants!! We cap off the night with our very last turmeric latte. Double yum. I must learn how to make these. We each crawl into our tents, and I watch the last of the light fade out of the sky, the lustrous turquoise gem below dulling to liquid silver.

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