At a viewing area along State Highway 80, where the tour bus made a temporary stop, there was a breathtaking vista of a portion of the Southern Alps. Without a doubt, the snow cover made for a most dramatic effect.
The tallest peak is Mount Cook (Aoraki, in Maori), the highest in all of New Zealand, which distinction makes it a favorite destination for mountain climbers, the most famous having been Sir Edmund Hillary, a native Kiwi.
We made a brief stop at Mount Cook National Park to have lunch and admire the scenery, though any views of Mount Cook could not be equalled by what we saw earlier. Still, from the Hermitage Hotel, you could get a glimpse of this towering mountain, one of over 140 peaks in the park and a large number of glaciers. At this time of year, only the cafeteria was open for lunch. On the exit door, a sign read: “Please do not feed the kea.”
Our attempts to take a short hike along some the tracks near the hotel were thwarted by snow cover, except for one. Outside, the most beautiful and delicate ice crystals formed on the plants.
The park would certainly be worth a return visit when the weather is nicer.