Snowy Mt Cook to sunny Queenstown

We had driven from Christchurch to Mt Cook in weather which went from bright and clear, to mist and ending with torrential rain.

Mist in the hills 2Some of the beautiful hills we passed

When we checked in to our hotel, he staff had said that the rain was due to stop overnight. They were quite correct about that. The rain was gone but it was SNOWING! We opened the curtains to be greeted by blanket of white. This was a real disappointment for a few reasons. We were scheduled to spend just the one night in Mt Cook and hoped to spend the morning visiting the Alpine Centre and Museum of Sir Edmund Hillary as well as go to seeand walk on a glacier.

Morning snowView from our balcony

Morning snow 3Another view from the balcony

We went down to breakfast and discussed what we should do. On our way down we saw that the snow outside the hotel entrance was already a couple of inches deep and large vehicles were moving carefully through it. We had a small car with small tyres not made for snow and the snow was still falling gently. Staff advised us to move on as soon as possible as no one knew when it would stop snowing. We took their advice and left straight after breakfast.

Hotel front in snow 2Front entrance to the hotel

Hotel front in snow 4Shrub at the front of the hotel

Even though the snowplough had begun to clear the roads around the town, with more snow still falling, it had a big job ahead of it. With our little car which was not ideal for snow driving we maintained a speed of about 30kms/hour. About 10kms out of the town it had stopped snowing but the road was still rather slippery and so it took us almost 2 hours to get to the highway, 55kms from Mt Cook. There it was dry and sunny and along the roadside were dozens of delphiniums growing wild among little daisies and other wild flowers. We also crossed a flooded river and fields.

DelphiniumsDelphiniums and Daisies on the roadside

River in flood

We turned right towards Queenstown and we drove through some absolutely beautiful countryside, stopping 3 times to see places of interest. In fact, we felt that the further South we travelled the more stunning the scenery. Green hills, fast flowing flooded rivers and snow on distant mountains. For animals we sheep, a few cattle and a dinosaur. Not a real one but a model at the Highlands Motorsport Park at Otagu with a 4km race track and some really interesting cars.

Cattle and wind breakCattle in the valley and a windbreak on the hill

Flooded river 2River in full flood

DinosaurThe Dinosaur. Not sure why it is at a race track

We almost missed the track and it was only because I saw a car held up on huge spider legs that we went back to see what it was. Parked near the parking lot was a row of Subaru racing cars, a Ferrari and an Aston Martin. There was also a vehicle called the Highlands Taxi in which a guest could be taken for a spin around the track but at NZ$425 we had to decline. We were able to walk down to the track itself where there were more cars balanced and displayed in fun ways. There was also a museum which Trevor toured while I stayed to admire the cars outside and a couple on the track. A lovely hour spent there.

3 old racers3 old racing cars

FerrariThe Ferrarri - closest I have ever been to one

Highlands taxiThe Highlands Taxi

Race trackA portion of the race track 

A few kms further along the road was a sign to the Roaring Meg Hydro Scheme in the Kawarau Gorge fed by the Roaring Meg Dam. This was a short but very fascinating stop. The name Roaring Meg was apt as the river of the same name roared down between the steep volcanic formed sides. It was hard to believe that some people enjoyed rafting in this dangerous water.

Hydro electric plantRoaring Meg Hydro Electric Scheme

River in volcanic rockRoaring Meg River in the gorge

Not far from there we came to another place to stop. It was the site of an historic bridge over the Kawarau River which is now well known as a top place for bungee jumping. To access this area one entered a building built into the side of the river bank and on the lower level there was a viewing deck, a café and a zip-line starting point. When we were there a class of school children about 12 or 13 years were visiting and they were loudly encouraging one of the girls in the group to bungee jump and she did!!

Kawarau bridgeThe historic bridge over the Kawarau River

Girl bungee jumping12 year old girl jumps

ZipliningYoung man zip lining

We got ourselves sandwiches at the café and completed our journey to Queenstown. As we neared the town we came alongside the Wakatipu Lake with the snow covered Remarkable Mountains as a backdrop. At that first siting of the lake we had no idea that later in the afternoon we would be walking right next it.

Lake and snow on Remakabnle NountainsFirst siting of Lake Wakapitu and The Remarkables

Fun carsTo end, these were some fun cars at the track. Yes the cow is on wheels

About Me

I was born into the early part of the Baby Boomer generation, the 3rd of what came to be a family of 6 daughters. Although both our parents, who are now deceased, had been raised in rural Natal (now KwaZulu-Natal) and the 2 eldest daughters were born in a country town, the other 4 of us were all born at home in Durban. Read More

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