Gah. I can't. I just can't even describe how much diverse beauty is packed into this tiny island. It's sorta not fair to the rest of the world. I mean one day we're hiking through golden clay cliff canyons and the next we're at the foot of a glacier. All within an hour of each other. And then these lakes. We really need to talk about these lakes because they have most definitely ruined all other lakes for me. The road to Mt Cook hugs the shoreline of Lake Pukaki and that crystal blue water escorted us for a good 45 minutes. It made it into my top four favorite drives in New Zealand, next to the drive to Glenorchy, the West Coast Highway and the drive to Milford. All so incredibly beautiful, all in such unique ways. This country has stolen a part of my heart and I'm certain I will never get it back. We woke up to rain and were worried that it would ruin our plans, but it was like the parting of the red sea, the clouds opened up leading to our destination and we had sunshine almost the entire day.
This boy and that Mario cap. The ever faithful scenic look-er-outer duo.
Mount Cook was our destination. Ryder and Maddox were all psyched to hike to the top and sled down. You know, totally reasonable expectations.
The clouds were really low when we first started and then as it gradually started to clear we were blown away by these towering snow covered cliffs surrounding us. Like we really thought those green hills were it.
Snow covered cliffs are always so mystical to me. They seem a little sinister, like the perfect lair for an evil wizard. Or maybe Gargamel. It's just fascinating that a completely different world exists within eyesight.
Standing at the base of these mountains was so humbling. There's nothing quite like standing in the shadows of a majestic mountain range to make you feel like man is nothing. But at the same time, realizing how small we really are in this infinitely huge universe and knowing that our Heavenly Father knows and loves each one of us. It's just pretty incredible. So wow, that's kind of some deep stuff for a Tuesday afternoon. And now I present to you, little tiny Maddox on the swing bridge. He kept his eyes squeezed shut every time he walked across them. He was such a brave little man. But I loved when he requested to hold my hand.
This right here is straight up Middle Earth.
So the Hooker Valley track is like 3 hours round trip and there was no way we were going to attempt it. In our experience, after about 40 minutes of hiking our kids turn to complete mush. The plan was just to go to the second swing bridge then turn around. We got to the second swing bridge, the kids were in good spirits planning out the non-existent dance room we'll have in our non-existent future house with our non-existent future dog. A golden retriever. The odds were forever in our favor when it came to the weather so we thought hey, let's just go for the gusto. You know when they say 3 hour round trip, that usually excludes those with a three year old on their shoulders and a six year old stopping to look for arrowheads, who consequently also has an itch that deems him immovable every tenth step or so. And then older kids who are either too hot, too cold, too bored, too tired and most definitely have a strained muscle on their foot. We finally made it to a dirty hut where we sat playing I spy with the graffiti and divvying out the last of the food rations, not even caring that we were drinking backwash water. Those three raisins and chocolate chip cookie crumbs gave us just enough strength to keep going. We got to the base of a hill when Maddox reached his breaking point. He crumpled up in the middle of the path and refused to take another step. He threw in the towel and told me to collect his body on the way back. I walked up the hill to see if I could see how much farther it was and there before my eyes was the breathtaking and ever elusive glacier lake with its massive floating ice bergs that we were looking for. After three hours one way we finally made it. It was so peaceful and so picturesque sitting on the shores. The kids busied themselves skipping rocks, collecting rocks, breaking rocks and creating all sorts of different competitions. At that moment there was no place else I would rather be. The only thing ruining the moment was the looming fact that we had to turn around and make that same long trip back. Thankfully the second leg went much faster. I guess all the rocks had been climbed, all the dance pictures had been taken and the promise of hot pizza was a pretty motivating factor.
Maddox wanted so badly to keep this chunk of the glacier to show his class (he even called it a "glaysier" like a true kiwi). He had everything planned out. He would keep it safe in his pocket while we hiked back then hold it out the window for the entire 4 hour drive home then keep it in the freezer until school started. He didn't understand why his plan wouldn't work. But hey, we have a picture, that's pretty much the same thing, right?
The drive back was just as impressive the second time around. But this time the kids had all crashed and it was such a treat to drive along in silence and soak it all in. And contemplate just how sore my buttocks were. We stopped for pizza at a park a few hours later. We let Ryder pee on a tree and drink orange soda out of his water bottle. He thought it was the best day ever. I would have to agree.