After a wonderful first half of this incredible drive, we proceeded further west on highway 8, towards Mount Cook. After leaving Tekapo, we made a mistake for some reason and took a right turn on Tekapo Powerhouse Rd. After a short drive on that road, we ended up on Tekapo Canal Rd. Interestingly, there were quite a few people fishing at this location. Later we found out that hydro canals such as this one are famous for fishing trout, salmon and other fishes. We don’t really fish. But, there was a one lane bridge near the canal road that offered an amazing view of the beautiful blue coloured water flowing through. So for us, the accidental “detour” actually turned out to be a blessing in disguise as we would have never discovered this spot otherwise.
(Tekapo Canal Rd, one way bridge)
(Tekapo Canal water)
After taking a few pictures, we went back on highway 8 and drove to our next stop, Lake Pukaki. This lake is another iconic sight of the South Island. The first time you get a glimpse of Lake Pukaki is just incredibly dramatic. You drive through winding roads going up and down, and then as you are descending a curving road, you start to see a milky blue colour on the horizon. You see this picturesque frame with mountains on top, a milky blue layer in the middle, and pine trees at the bottom. The milky blue colour typical of Lake Pukaki is due to glacial salts present in the lake, which reflect the sunlight in a certain way. Many people treat Lake Pukaki as a short stopover for a photo or two; but in my opinion, you can have a picnic by this lake. It is a lot quieter than Lake Tekapo and you can really soak in the nature, or perhaps even go for a swim assuming the summer temperatures are high enough. After driving along the lake, we found a spot by the shore where we could not only relax, but also get a stunning view of Mount Cook – covered with some snow on top. The water of Lake Pukaki was so clean and clear,that we could see right through. We took this one picture which looks like a picture of some rocks under the sun. However, there is actually about 2 feet of water above the rocks, even though it seems almost invisible!
(first glimpse of Lake Pukaki)
(Lake Pukaki with Mt Cook in the background)
(Lake Pukaki and surrounding areas)
(There is 2 feet of water above the rocks!)
(shore of Lake Pukaki)
(beautiful cloud seen from the lake shore)
(milky blue water of Lake Pukaki, from highway 8)
(Lake Pukaki with reflection of Mt Cook)
A peaceful few minutes later, we started driving again. The next 1 hour of driving was among the most stunning journeys in the world. Most part of the road from hereon to Mount Cook village is along Lake Pukaki, with milky blue waters on one side of the road, and mountainous alpine scenery on the other side.
(driving along Mt Cook road)
(Mount Cook and Lake Pukaki seen from Mt Cook road)
(wild sheep along Mt Cook road)
(beautiful scenery along Mt Cook road)
As Lake Pukaki ends, you start seeing vast flat areas and snow covered mountains. The mountains of Aoraki get more and more imposing as you get closer to Mount Cook village. You can see the snow and glacier clearly, and you can also see streams of glacial water flowing down the mountains. We reached Mount Cook village around 2:30 pm in the afternoon (having left Christchurch early morning at 8:15 am) and checked in to our accommodation, Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Lodge. You can read a review of this accommodation here.
(approaching Mt Cook village)
(Alpine scenery on Mt Cook road)
(Mt Cook area)
(beautiful open lands of Aoraki area)
(The road to Mt Cook area)
(glaciers and water streams)
(approaching Aoraki/Mt Cook village)
Summer time in South Island means that sunset occurs after 8 pm. That was a good thing for us, as we now had enough time to do the Hooker Valley walk. You can read more on that walk and Mt Cook here.