Day 16: Lake Pukaki, Mount Cook & Lake Tekapo

Plan for the day

Our plan was to travel northward to Mount Cook before proceeding to Lake Tekapo. There was no direct route between Mount Cook and Lake Tekapo so we would have to back track to Lake Pukaki before travelling eastward to Lake Tekapo.

Route for the day

Route for the day

By end of day

The day started off fine, but by the time we reached Mount Cook Village it was already raining. In the village we stopped at The Hermitage Hotel for a long long coffee break. The weather was lousy so we did not attempt to go further north. By about  4 pm we gave up on waiting for the weather to improve and turned back to Lake Pukaki. We finally reached Lake Tekapo at about 6 pm and the rain had still not ceased yet.

Early Morning AT Lake Pukaki

The first thing I did when I woke up in the morning was looked at the sky. Great it was clear and bright. We quickly hopped into our car and drove back to Lake Pukaki. The view was so much more beautiful than it was the evening before. We could see the snow capped mountain ranges far beyond. Lovely!

Lake Pukaki at 8.30am

Lake Pukaki at 8.30 am

At 8.30 am in the morning, we had the lake all to ourselves. It was awesome! The crowd had not trickled in yet and this made taking photographs so much more pleasant. We needed not have to wait for others to get out of my picture frames.

Lake Pukaki and Yat Thong

Lake Pukaki and Yat Thong

Making the decision to stay near the lake was right. It allowed us to make several return trips to Lake Pukaki and definitely improved our chance of viewing the lake on a “good weather” day!

Lake Pukaki and the Merino Sheep and Us

Lake Pukaki and the Merino Sheep and Us

Lake Rautaniwha Holiday Park

We were back at Lake Rautaniwha Holiday Park to pack and check out before 10 am. Since it was all bright and shining we walked around the place and explored a bit. Unlike the hotels/motels in Twizel town which were fully booked, this holiday park was rather empty, probably because it was sort of “out of town”. We were glad to stay at its motel unit and definitely thought that it was the most luxuriously unit we had for this trip.

Lake Ruataniwha Holiday Park

Lake Ruataniwha Holiday Park

Lake Ruataniwha

Lake Ruataniwha was just about 100 metres from the holiday park so we decided to take a look at it before leaving the holiday park. It was beautiful, better than my expectation. This was a lake where families would come and play when they stayed at the holiday park. But at this time of the year it was deserted. The water was probably too cold for water activities.

Lake Rautaniwha

Lake Ruataniwha

Though Lake Rautaniwha was a smaller lake compared to Lake Pukaki and did not have the snow capped mountain ranges as it backdrop, it  was still beautiful. It had a very different backdrop, a backdrop made up of different series of trees and bushes. Stunning in its own way.

Lake Ruataniwha

Lake Ruataniwha

Breakfast at Twizel Town

By the time we were ready for our first meal of the day it was close to 10.30 am. We drove into Twizel Town which was took us less than 5 minutes. It took us longer to decide which cafe we should go in for our breakfast. There were many eateries in Twizel town centre, we walked one round and settled on Shawtys Cafe. Our breakfast cost came up to NZ D$17 with just one cafe latte to share.

Breakfast at Shawtys Cafe

Breakfast at Shawtys Cafe

Mount Cook

There was only one driving route from Twizel to Mount Cook. The road hugged the west side of Lake Pukaki and along the way there was a scenic lookout point, Peter’s Lookout. As we traveled towards the lookout, the weather turned gloomy.

Route to Peter's Lookout

Route to Peter’s Lookout

The scene at Peter’s Lookout was very beautiful. The color of the water in the lake was this opaque baby blue pastel shade. It was the same color that we saw the evening before but not the color we saw this morning when we were at the lake. Somehow the gloomy sky when reflected by the lake had caused its water to take on this unique shade.

Peter's Lookout

Peter’s Lookout

Soon the mist came down and partially blocked the view of the snow mountains. The time was around noon and the view of the lake and snow mountains was very different from the view we saw in the morning at 8.30 am. They portrayed a different mood to the viewers, one was cheery and the other mysteriously enchanting, both beautiful in their own way. I wondered how this view would look like later in the day when we returned after our visit to Mount Cook.

Lake Pukaki at 11.30 am

Lake Pukaki at 11.30 am looking Northward

Lake Pukaki at 11.30 am looking Southward

Lake Pukaki at 11.30 am looking Southward

Coffee break Mount cook Village

Once the road left the lake the scenery became dull. The weather had also changed for the worst. It started raining. Finally after about a 30 minutes drive from Peter’s Lookout we reached Mount Cook Village.

Road to Mount Cook

Road to Mount Cook

We reached Mount Cook village at about 1 pm and the rain was coming down non stop. We abandoned any plan that required trekking and decided to look for a cafe for a coffee break preferably with a good view.

Mount Cook Village

Mount Cook Village

There were two cafes in Hermitage Hotel, one was for hotel guests and the other for walk-in public. We managed to find a table with a wonderful view of Mount Cook and sat down for two cups of cafe latte and two small cakes which costed a total of NZD $29. A premium price for a premium view.

Coffee Break at Cafe of Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook Village

Coffee Break at Cafe of Hermitage Hotel, Mount Cook Village

Lake Pukaki and More Lupin

We left Mount Cook Village at about 4 pm. We backtracked our way to Lake Pukaki. While we were at Mount Cook village the rain just kept on coming down but interestingly once we left Mount Cook the rain stopped. We were just glad to be out of the rain.

At 4.30 pm the view of Lake Pukaki and its mountain backdrop took on another look and mood. Again the view was so different from the 8.30 am view and the 11.30 am view. This time it was the mountain ranges on the opposite side of the lake that caught my attention.

Beyond the lake we could see many shadowy layers of beautiful mountain ranges. So lovely so melancholic. The color gradation was fascinating. It transformed from the intense baby blue lake water to the dark blue mountains after the lake, to the lighter shades mountain ranges behind, to the whitish blue sky. A beautiful palette of blue shades.

Lake Pukaki at 4.30 pm

Lake Pukaki at 4.30 pm

We drove from the western side of the lake to its southern tip. As we were about to leave Lake Pukaki for good we came upon a big patch of lupin by the side of the lake. It was too lovely to drive past so again we parked our car and walked down to the bank of the lake again.

Lupin by the bank of Lake Pukaki

Lupin by the bank of Lake Pukaki

Lake Tekapo Holiday park

It was a short drive from Lake Pukaki to Lake Tekapo. The distance was about 47 km and the drive took only 30 minutes. I had booked a private room for two at a holiday park  just by the lake on Hostelworld.com The holiday park, Lakefront Lodge Backpackers was located in Tekapo town on the southern end of the lake.

We booked our room three months ahead of our visit and even though mid November was not a peak tourist season, all the rooms with ensuite toilets were already taken. So our room was again without an attached toilet. We would have to use the shared facilities at the park. Lakefront Lodge Backpackers could also be found on Booking.com, unfortunately the rooms available were all four-person dormitory.

Lakefront Backpacker Lodge

Lakefront Backpacker Lodge

Our room was super small. It contained a double bed with a one foot space on each side. A tight squeeze for the two of us. Though the space was small, the room managed to look comfortable. The cost of the room was NZD $90 per night.

Our mini private room for two

Our mini private room for two

The share facilities were much larger. This holiday park was packed with guests. Though the kitchen was huge, there was hardly enough space for all its users. I tried my best to cook a decent meal for the two of us.

Share facilities (Kitchen, dining and Sitting rooms)

Share facilities (Kitchen, dining and Sitting rooms)

For a second evening in a row we had salmon pasta. We bought a fresh salmon steak two hours ago when we past Alpine Salmon Shop at Lake Pukaki Information Center on our way from Mount Cook to Lake Tekapo.

Delicious Salmon Pasta with eggs

Delicious Salmon Pasta with eggs

Church of the Good Shepherd

By the time we finished dinner it was only 7.30 pm and there was still plenty of day light. So we drove down to Lake Tekapo famous Church of the Good Shepherd which was just two kilometer west from our holiday park.

On the way we passed the town center and saw many restaurants, shops, cafes and a supermarket. Good, now we knew where we could get our food supplies, meals and coffee.

Route to Church of Good Shepherd

Route to Church of Good Shepherd

After the town, we turned left and drove towards the lake. The stone church was located near the bank of the lake which was beautifully covered with countless blooming lupin. The sky was still pretty downcast and a slight drizzle  started again. We donned our rain jackets, pulled up our hoods, grabbed our cameras and were out to explore this beautiful place.

Church of the Good Shepherd

Church of the Good Shepherd

Though the weather was lousy, cars and buses still packed the carpark bring in many people to visit this quaint stone church. Our last visit here many years back was just for a couple of hours. This round we would be at Lake Tekapo for two whole days! Unlike most other tourists who would go off after an hour or two, we stayed till the sun went down and the blue hour came.

Church of the Good Shepherd at 9pm

Church of the Good Shepherd at 9 pm (blue hour)

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