Aoraki Mt. Cook

The name pays homage to the Maori name in addition to the Anglo name.  Can you guess which is which?  We checked into a very comfortable motel-style suite at the Mt. Cook Lodge, about a 15-minute walk from the Hermitage main location.  Too bad we only stayed one night and could not take advantage of the kitchenette and other bedroom.

Aoraki Mt. Cook is the highest peak in the Southern Alps.  Sir Edmund Hillary, a native New Zealander, climbed Aoraki Mt. Cook multiple times in preparation to his successful summit of Mount Everest in 1953.  He also led the first drive to the South Pole a few years later.  Most impressively, he parlayed his fame into successful fundraising and oversaw (sometimes hands on) the building of dozens of schools, churches, hospitals, and airstrips in Nepal, which opened some pretty isolated areas to relative modernity.

As is our leisurely wont, we found a few things to keep us occupied.  The Alpine Center restaurants have breathtaking views of Aoraki Mt. Cook and the brown glaciers (from the Australian bush fire ashes).  The onsite museum features multiple displays and history about “Sir Ed,” including a tractor from the Antarctic expedition.  Other displays include old cars that ferried visitors to the old Hermitage (only a 12-22 hour experience) and the first ski plane to land on the Tasman glacier, opening up a new and continually thriving tourist attraction.  

The star gazing tour was real and spectacular, and the Milky Way was on full display.  Our enthusiastic guide, Jason, mentioned that the Greeks were probably hitting the red wine (or something stronger) when they envisioned the constellations.  We learned how to approximate due south, since there is no southern equivalent of the North Star, which by the way we could not see for some reason.  We did, however, learn how to find the “real” Southern Cross.

Lesson learned:  While we thought we had built in plenty of down time, we have not.  Moving a lot and the associated packing/unpacking has been tiring.

While the Aussies in Sydney are buying up toilet paper at a frenzied pace, the Kiwis are are reporting a sales spike in something for the self-isolators: adult toys. In about nine months a new generation will enter the world. They will be the “coronials.”

On to the next port of call:  Christchurch and the TranzAlpine Pass.

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