Getting Lost in the Countryside: Aoraki/Mount Cook National Park

Hello everyone!

I’ve been looking forward to writing about my adventure in the countryside of New Zealand South Island. As I mentioned in my previous posts, New Zealand has been on the top of my bucket list. I wasn’t particularly excited about the major cities like Auckland and Christchurch, but I’m glad I had a chance to explore nature, which is what New Zealand is known for.

In this series:

Before I get started, something I wanted to recommend you do is book your tour at least a week before at the latest. I was procrastinating until the last minute. As a result, most tours were sold out, especially during high season in the southern hemisphere. Luckily, I was finally able to get a tour reservation confirmed — Thanks to Richard Wolskel from newzealand.com, who was very accommodating and willing to help me even after hours and during the holiday. That said, had I known this and not procrastinated, I would’ve had more options to choose from, and would’ve gotten them at cheaper rates.

After many emails going back and forth with various tour agencies, I finally had one confirmed. Maossie Tours operated the tour, and I had nothing but a wonderful experience. Thanks to Gary and Nicole, our tour guides who graciously took our group to the countryside.

Right at 8 AM, Nicole met me in the lobby of Doubletree Hotel, where I stayed. We then picked up a few other participants around town before we began our journey on a comfortable Mercedes Benz van. In essence, it was a nice ride with complimentary wifi, water, and sodas.

Before we left, Gary provided a quick safety briefing in case of an emergency.

We stopped at Farm Shop Cafe for a quick coffee and muffin break. As a big coffee fan, there was an array of coffee beverages to choose from and have their fantastic custard-filled muffin — yum!

There is also a store next to the cafe where you can get some of the local honey products.

Moments later, we continued our journey. What made it so much fun and enjoyable was the fact that Nicole and Gary continuously told us histories about New Zealand and Maori culture — it was definitely educational.

As you might expect, the sceneries were absolutely stunning. I highly recommend that you sit on the right-hand side of the van because it was more scenic and well lit when heading southbound in the morning.

Our next stop was Lake Tekapo, one of the largest lakes in the South Island of New Zealand. Due to a tight schedule, we only spent about 2o minutes here wandering around the area, including the Church of the Good Shepherd. Fortunately, we stopped by here again on our way back to take more photos.

Closer to lunchtime, we finally arrived at the iconic Hermitage Hotel. The hotel is located just 1,150 feet from Aoraki Mount Cook, which gives you a magnificent view of the mountain. 

Upon entrance, we went straight to the restaurant. The dining room has a large window overlooking the mountain.

The Alpine Restaurant at Hermitage Hotel offers a superb lunch buffet. There was a variety of options and cuisines to choose from — it reminds me of a typical all-you-can-eat buffet in Las Vegas.

The hotel is also Adjacent to Sir Edmund Hillary Alpine Center; the tour package included an admission ticket to the 3D theatre, Museum, Hillary Gallery, and digital dome Planetarium, though I didn’t take advantage of that since I was busy taking photos outside. 😉

We then headed to Hooker Valley, which is the most popular “easy” walk around Aoraki Mount Cook National Park.

After a moderate hike, we reached the glacier lake. The view of Aoraki/Mount Cook and the Hooker Glacier was absolutely breathtaking.

There was also a small lake nearby called Blue Lakes, which interestingly appeared green. According to the information board, the Tasman Glacier has shrunk and caused the water to stop flowing into the Blue Lakes. As a result, the warmer rainwater supports green algae that make water appear green.

After taking plenty of stunning photographs, we walked back to the van. Wearing a long-sleeve was definitely a mistake because it was quite warm. At first, I thought the temperature when visiting a glacier would be cold — boy, I was wrong! The sun rays in the southern hemisphere were pretty intense. In the summer, I highly recommend you wear something light and apply plenty of sunscreens.

We got to the van, we had a short break, and had some drinks. Moments later, we were on our way back.

Along the way, we stopped by The Dark Sky Project, a mountainside observatory, for more photo ops as well as an afternoon tea. I had an iced coffee and freshly baked cheese rolls — yum!

We also made a quick stop again at Lake Takepo to capture more instagrammable moments.

And finally, we had made a surprise stop at a lupin meadow — thanks, Gary and Nicole! By far, this was one of the most breathtaking views I’ve ever witnessed.

Look at this gorgeous sea of flowers!

Time flies when you are having a good time with good people. It was time for us to head back to Christchurch. We arrived in Christchurch at 9:15 PM. I was the last passenger to get dropped off at the hotel. I bid Gary and Nicole farewell and thanked them for the fantastic day we had.

Conclusion

I have nothing but great things to say about the tour, and I had a wonderful time exploring the countryside of the south island. Gary and Nicole delivered such a flawless tour experience. They were kind and lovely. The ride was comfortable, and the amenities were great.

Despite a tight schedule, the itinerary was well thought out. I love the morning coffee and muffin break, as well as the afternoon tea, not to mention the delicious lunch buffet at the famous Hermitage Hotel.

I couldn’t think of a better way to end the year 2019 by witnessing the beautiful nature. If New Zealand is in your bucket list, I would highly suggest you experience this, and would recommend Maossie Tours as your tour provider. I’m looking forward to visiting more places in the south island.

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