NZ Life & Leisure
Aoraki/ Mt Cook
Since the 1880s, New Zealanders have trekked into the mountains at the head of Lake Pūkaki to pay homage to the country’s tallest mountain and to rest in its calming shadow. On the site of the Hermitage Hotel, there once stood a simple wooden structure at which travelers arrived at the end of a three- day horseback trek. In the 1960s and 1970s, now the Hermitage Hotel, guests gasped in awe at the famous mountain framed in the massive and, back then, revolutionary “picture windows”. There is still much magic in that view.
THREE EASY WALKS:
1. THE HOOKER VALLEY TRACK (three-hour return) is the walk everyone talks about. It’s not arduous and covers three swing bridges, mountain views, and the icebergs at the Hooker Glacier terminal lake (unless it’s winter and the lake is frozen, which is also a thing of beauty). Give Freda’s Rock ( just 20 metres in) a friendly pat in passing. It’s where self-taught Australian mountaineer Freda du Faur had her famous photo taken in 1910 after becoming the first woman to climb Aoraki/Mt Cook.
2. RED TARNS TRACK If an aerial view is preferred and calf muscles are compliant, the Red Tarns Track is a steep, two-hour-return trek from Aoraki/Mt Cook Village. That tallest peak and its companions are visible for those relishing a bit of elevation.
3. GOVERNOR’S BUSH WALK More tree-keen sorts could try the Governor’s Bush Walk. It’s an easy one-hour loop track through silver beech forest with pīwakawaka/fantail and kea for company, up a ridge with great valley views and a pop of Aoraki/Mt Cook if the clouds are kind.
DOC Aoraki/Mt Cook National Park Visitor Centre, 1 Larch Grove, Aoraki/Mt Cook Village. (03) 435 1186, doc.govt.nz