The Desi Nomads

New Zealand: Day 7: Wanaka & Mount Cook National Park

Our plan for the day was to pick up a rental car and drive to Mount Cook National park.  Unfortunately, we could not rent a car from Queenstown, and drop it off in Wanaka, our stop for the night.  So, we had to figure out a way to pick up our car from Wanaka in the morning.  We started off leaving our comfy villa in Queenstown, catching a public bus to Queenstown downtown, and then hopping on a shuttle that took us to Wanaka.  The shuttle took around 1.5 hours to reach Wanaka, and dropped us off at our rental car pickup.

Waiting for a bus to take us to downtown Queenstown

Wanaka is a small town on a picturesque lake, and has many kid-friendly activities.  But we had better plans for the day…


After picking up our rental car, we started our 2 hour drive to Mount Cook National park.  Mount Cook is the tallest mountain in South Island, and is set in a gorgeous valley, covered with glaciers and waterfalls.

Driving towards Mt Cook

As we got closer to Mt Cook, we were greeted by a turquoise lake Pukaki.  We had to pull over for a photo op, and it was also a good time to eat our packaged lunch (leftover rice from the Indian restaurant in Queenstown, with yogurt and chips).

Lake Pukaki

This is when we started noticing the grey clouds and gloomy skies.  As we continued our drive towards the park, rain started pouring onto our car.

A gloomy destination

Once we reached the park, and parked our car, we picked the Hooker valley trail.  The trail is 3 hours long, and ends with a view of Mt Cook, and a glacial lake…sounded exciting.

Started on the hooker valley trail

As we continued on the moderate hike, the weather did not improve.  Infact, it got worse at times, with huge gales of wind, threatening to knock us off the bridges.  It didn’t help that it was freezing as well, and we were bundled up in rain jackets.

Even with the weather and low visibility, we could see how gorgeous the park was.  It was a pity I couldn’t enjoy this in clear weather.

We asked some folks coming back from the hike how the views were in the end, and they said that you could not see Mt Cook because of the poor visibility.  Since the weather wasn’t letting up either, and it was getting harder to climb with the wind resistance, we decided to turn back half way.  The hike is definitely on my bucket list, and if I ever make it back to NZ some day, I will have to surely complete it.

Of course, the weather improved as we started our drive back to Wanaka…oh well!  We reached our motel in Wanaka, Fairway motel, at around 9pm, and settled in for the night.  The motel was decent for the price, and even had kitchen facilities.

Tomorrow, we head to the west coast of South Island!

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