Aoraki (Mount Cook) had been a looming distant presence since our first sight of it whilst rolling out of Franz Joseph. The highest mountain in the Southern Alps (and the rest of the country for that matter) sticks out like a long, jagged canine from a gum of stumpy molars. As a backdrop to a bus journey from Queenstown it serves as a great distraction. Being the poster-boy peak of New Zealand though, Mount Cook is the go-to image for guidebook covers and touristy posters. You would be forgiven for thinking that the wide spread saturation of it's picturesque imagery would dilute the exhilaration of your first up-close encounter. It doesn't.
Our arrival had fallen on the same week that significant snowfall had frosted the peak of the Alps, giving us a small taste of the landscape in wintry white. The temperature had dropped significantly for the first time since we left Blighty, and we found that we hadn't packed for that eventuality. Jandals and t-shirts made way for hiking boots and several t-shirts. We were relieved to arrive at a cosy Backpackers converted from a Ski Lodge Hotel. Rather predictably, we found ourselves in a room with another Devon Dumplin' going by the name of Lea, who was from Exeter. It's a wonder that anything gets done in Devon - everybody seems to be on the other side of the world. If we all went home at the same time the county would most likely suffer severe overcrowding!
As we were only on a short stopover, our time had to be spent wisely. A good old fashioned trek beside a glacial river, over swing bridges and towards the base of a 12,316 ft mountain should do the job. And it did. I could write a thousand words and it wouldn't equal a photograph. I could take a thousand photographs and it wouldn't come close to being there. So I won't bother.