Day 9: Mt. Cook/Mt. Potts
Mt. Cook was too good to say goodbye just yet. After packing up the car and checking out of the Hermitage, we circled around to the east side the park and ventured into the Tasman Valley for a morning hike (yesterday we hiked the Hooker Valley).
From the lookout over the Tasman Glacier and lake, you can see how far the glacier has retreated over the past few decades. What was once covered deep in ice is now a lake and an open expanse of rock and moraine. Thanks, global climate change.
Our drive out of Mt. Cook National Park headed south along Lake Pukaki (which we saw on the way in) until we hooked back up with Highway 8 and turned east. We stopped at a tiny store at the end of the lake called Mt. Cook Alpine Salmon. Freshwater King Salmon are farmed in the controlled canals south of the lake, using the cold, pure waters that flow from Mt. Cook.
We bought some salmon fillets to make for dinner, and some smoked salmon to eat right away. Unfortunately, New Zealand doesn’t really appreciate the concept of a bagel and cream cheese, so I took my salmon straight up.
The next town we passed through was Tekapo, which is home to another brilliant blue glacial lake. Tekapo is a small town (permanent population of 365) but it had a handful of things to see, including a mountain-top observatory with a cafe, a famous old church, and a monument to collie dogs!
Geraldine was the next stop on our driving adventure. We read about a gourmet cheese shop in town and tracked it down. This part of New Zealand still has sheep (of course), but they also have cows all over the place, hence, delicious fresh cheese.
After stocking up on cheese and groceries, we raced the setting sun back north into the Canterbury High Country. No more dairy cows up here, but plenty of cattle.
We reached our final destination of Mt. Potts Lodge just as the last bit of daylight was fading. Other than Brad, the lodge manager who lives on site, we had the place to ourselves. Seriously, Mt. Potts Lodge is the only accommodation around for miles, and we were the only ones there! Just us, Brad, and the farm animals.
There is no restaurant on site, but Brad told us ahead of time there was a microwave and grill available to prepare food — which is why we showed up with a stockpile of salmon and cheese! We weren’t sure what other tools or items would be at our disposal, but with Brad’s help getting the stove started in the lodge, we ended up using the chef’s kitchen in the lodge (designed for catering events) to make dinner, MacGyver-style!
There are no city lights anywhere nearby, in fact there is nothing nearby; not for miles, but the nearly-full moon is so bright that it actually obstructs the view of some of the other stars. Even so, when we walked outside before bedtime to check out the clear sky and the pleasant weather, we could still some asterisms and the Milky Way. Not too shabby.