- New zealand
A Backpacking Guide to Lake Tekapo and Mount Cook
My journey did not end after I accomplished my life-long dream to skydive in New Zealand. I continued up north to Lake Tekapo, a place where the color of the lake will fool you into thinking that it was photoshopped and then reunited with my friends, Viola, and Megan again in Mt Cook. We then joined force and tackled the Hooker Valley walk together. Here is our experience:Table of Contents
- New Zealand Travel Video
- Walking around Lake Tekapo
- Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd at Night
- Getting to Mount Cook
- Hiking the Hooker Valley
- Another Attempt to See Mount Cook from the Hookder Valley Trail
- Getting to Dunedin from Mount Cook via Christchurch
- Further Reading for Backpacking in New Zealand
New Zealand Travel Video
Walking around Lake Tekapo
You get what you paid for? In this case I got this view for paying a cheap price of a dorm room in a hostel near Lake Tekapo. The hostel I stayed was the YHA Lake Tekapo.
It felt weird being alone again after traveling around with other people for so long.
But that did not stop me from going out and explored the area. The color of the lake was ridiculously blue. It was like I was in a Disney's cartoon. So vibrant and vivid!
It was a clear day, but it was way too windy to do anything. I could not even set a tripod up without having it blown off in seconds.
Visit the Church of the Good Shepherd at Night
Before I came here, I had seen photos of Church of the Good Shepherd and the Milky Way being circulated around the Internet. I did not pay attention on where it was until I was planning my trip to New Zealand and saw those photos again. The photos were listed under Lake Tekapo.
It was that moment that I had my mind set to go out at night and take a photo of the church with the stars.
Unfortunately, it was raining that evening and I thought all hope were lost until I remember how fast the weather changes in New Zealand. I waited quietly in the hostel while watching The Lord of the Rings (for the thousand times) other people put on.
At 9 PM, the sky was clear and so I went out to the church again and found several other photographers already setup camp. Turned out, it was a group of Asians trying to get the same photo they saw on the Internet.
It was impossible to find a place where people didn't walk around and flashed flashlights at the Church. In the end, I was unable to take any decent photos of the stars because of the inconsistency of lights created by flashlights. I gave up and went to bed.
Getting to Mount Cook
It was a little tricky to get to Mt Cook since the NakedBus doesn't go inside the national park. I had to take the Cook Connect coach to go there.
On our way to Mt Cook, like most shuttle services, the Cook Connect did a short stop at Lake Pukaki so we tourists could snap a few photos.
After an hour drive from Lake Tekapo, I arrived in Mt Cook and I brought clouds with me, lots of them.
Hiking the Hooker Valley
I met up with Megan and Viola again, we went off to do the Hooker Valley track together.
The whole trail was relatively easy. There were no steep climbs and it could be done in 2 hours.
It was raining like crazy when we got to the start of the trail.
Since we had only 1 day there, it made no sense for us to just sit inside and wait for the clouds to go away. I know from past experience that when it comes to the mountains, the clouds never disappear when I wanted them to.
We pushed on relentlessly. The rain started to turn into snowflakes as we went deeper into the mountains.
We eventually reached Hooker Lake in 2 hours and was trying to locate Mt Cook. After all, we were there to see Mt Cook.
Nope. Nothing. At that point, we thought that Mt Cook was some kind of a hoax. Something the government conjured up to drive tourism. Of course I was being ridiculous.. or was I?
The walk was rewarding in itself. There were several suspension bridges and lookout points that would give you a grand sight of the mountains given that you are there on a clear day.
Due to my stupidity, I left my gloves at the hostel and my hands were freezing. It was not the best moment.
We turned back after realizing that the weather would not get better any time soon. We were back at the hostel in an hour warming ourselves and filling our stomaches with carbohydrate. I devoured a whole pizza plate after that.
At around 8 PM, me, Viola, Megan and a couple of their friends met up and we decided to hang out at a bar in the most expensive hotel in New Zealand, The Hermitage. Of course, as with most backpackers we were poor and we were able to afford only a few beers.
We spent that night talking about all sort of things. It was fun to be reunited with people I already knew. It felt like our friendships were being developed even further.
Another Attempt to See Mount Cook from the Hookder Valley Trail
I sprung out of bed as soon as the sunlight hit my face in the morning. Since the Cook Connect pick up time was at 11 am, I had 2 extra hours to spare. I was determined to see Mt Cook and so I went out on my own to the Hooker Valley track.
Unfortunately for Megain and Viola, they had to stick to their schedule with The Stray. We said goodbye to each other and I quickly ran out not to waste any minute.
This time there were no snows or rain, so I ran all the way until I stumbled upon this magnificent beast. Mt Cook was finally showing itself.
It was a little cloudy but at least I can say that I saw Mt Cook. Nothing worth having comes easy.
Getting there was one thing, going back in time for the bus was another. I ran back like there's no tomorrow.
Getting to Dunedin from Mount Cook via Christchurch
The night before, I got a curious message from Ashley asking if I would be in Dunedin before she left for the states. After several calculations, I was able to find a route to get me to Dunedin in 24 hours. I decided to take a Cook Connect bus to Twizel in time for the NakedBus to pick me up and drop me off in Christchurch.
I had to stay in Christchurch for a night before arriving in Dunedin the next day. I definitely did not have a great first impression about Christchurch. The city looked too industrial for me. There were constructions every where and the traffic was pretty bad when I was there. I had my friends telling me great things though so I am keeping my mind open for the future.
I stayed in Jailhouse hostel where the whole building was renovated from an old jail. The jail rooms and structure were still intact. Ironically, the room were more spacious than most hostels I stayed in New Zealand.
That ended my journey in Lake Tekapo and Mt Cook. Next episode and the finale, we will explore Dunedin from the back of the local's car, stayed in a student flat, a unique experience in itself, and hitch-hiked around the Peninsula. Stay tuned.
Further Reading for Backpacking in New Zealand
I’ve spent 5 weeks backpacking in New Zealand and I have written a ton more about my journey traveling throughout New Zealand from the North Island to the South Island that you might help in your trip planning.
Here’s a selection of articles about New Zealand:
- Looking for a complete travel guide to spend one month in New Zealand on a budget? A Month In New Zealand On A Budget - The Perfect Backpacking Itinerary.
- New Zealand has a special place in my heart. It is one of the most memorable trips I have ever done and here are 10 things I love about New Zealand.
- If you are planning to start traveling in New Zealand from North to South, Rotorua is a great place to visit on your way South from Auckland. Here is a travel guide on things to do in Rotorua.
- Did you know that you can climb Mount Doom from Lord of the Rings in real life? Along the Tongariro Crossing trail, you have the option to summit Mount Ngauruhoe which was used as a reference for Mount Doom in the movie. Here a travel guide on how to hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing in one day.
- Crossing from the North Island of New Zealand to the South is an experience in and of itself. See how to cross from the North Island to the South Island in New Zealand here.
- One of the first big city you will travel in the South Island is Nelson which has a laid-back vibe while Motueka, a sister town makes a great base to traveling to Abel Tasman National Park. Here’s a quick travel guide on things to do in Nelson and Motueka.
- One of the best Great Walk you can do is in the Abel Tasman National Park and you can do parts of it in one day. Here’s a complete guide on how to hike parts of the Abel Tasman Great Walk in one day.
- The West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand is not very popular among travelers, making it a great place to go off the beaten path. Here’s a travel guide on things to do, and where to go in West Port, New Zealand.
- Franz Josef or Fox Glacier, a question that has been asked for as long as travelers start traveling in New Zealand. It doesn’t really matter which one you pick as both are a great place to go ice climbing. Here’s a travel guide on how to go ice climbing on Franz Josef glacier with Ice Explorer.
- You must have a seen photo of a lone tree in a lake with beautiful mountains as a background somewhere. That’s in Wanaka, New Zealand and here’s travel guide on things to do in Wanaka in one day.
- Queenstown is the adventure capital of the world. If your body can endure it, you can find it in Queenstown. Here’s a 3 days itinerary on things to do in Queenstown.
- Queenstown is also one of the best places in the world to go skydiving. Here’s my experience skydiving with the NZONE in Queenstown.
- The Milford Sound is touristy, there’s no denying it and you are not wrong to be skeptical but I can assure you, it is worth the hype. Here’s a travel guide on which cruise to pick for the Milford Sound and how to get there.
- One of the best Great Walk in New Zealand you can do is the Routeburn Track. Here’s a complete 3 days itinerary and travel guide on how to trek the Routeburn Track.
- Dunedin is a great place to end your trip in New Zealand. After all the adventure you have been through, here’s how to spend 5 days in Dunedin, taking it slow and seeing the city at your own leisure.
- Not convinced by my words about New Zealand? Come follow me and I’ll show you New Zealand in 70 photos.
- You can see all my New Zealand travel guides and related articles on my New Zealand Travel Guide page.
The Solo Traveler’s Journal is a series of posts by Pete Rojwongsuriya, the founder of BucketListly Blog where we will follow his solo journey around the world as he experiences different cultures, people, and historical locations one country at a time.
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