From Wanaka to Mt. Cook
The bus companies here have an interesting cooperative arrangement. Kyanne made all of our reservations through InterCity. However, Newmans and Great Sights (a division of InterCity that has nicer buses and includes commentary) cover some of our routes The system works well; each driver carries a printed list of passengers to pick up at each stop. A Packless Traveler need not carry separate tickets.
For less-busy routes, InterCity contracts with taxis to connect to main bus routes. We took one from Wanaka to Tarras, where we intercepted the scheduled Great Sights bus from Queenstown to Mt. Cook.
The wide valley to Tarras presents a familiar scene: irrigated fields growing grass for grazing cattle and sheep.
Just outside of Tarras sits a golf course built on a working farm. Sheep keep the fairways trimmed (and no doubt fertilized), but fences surround the greens to protect them. Chipping must be interesting.
The valley narrows to a sparsely-vegetated pass (3200′) surrounded by steep hills, the highest point we travel today.
Bushes and trees (especially along the river) appear as we descend.
At the bottom is MacKenzie valley, once deep, but now home to vast quantities of glacial moraine. The briar roses that grow along the road were imported from England by miners who, without knowledge of vitamins, had nonetheless figured out that the rose hips (containing vitamin C) prevented scurvy.
Clay cliffs were formed by glacial loess (dust).
Glider pilots come from around the world to this valley to take advantage of the prevailing winds. They read the clouds to follow wind currents upward.
The valley, in the rain shadow (10″ annually) of the Southern Alps is now widely irrigated, supporting cattle (beef & dairy) and sheep. The project started in the 1930’s Depression and included a deal in which the farmers gave up rights of way for irrigation canals in return for a share of the water.
Reflecting hills and sky, glacial-fed Lake Pukaki is one in a series of dam-created lakes connected by canals to provide both power and water.
Glacial dust absorbs much of the light spectrum, leaving only blue-green color to escape.
Tasman Glacier once extended south to Lake Pukaki, perhaps near here.
As we neared the resort, Mt. Sefton and its hanging glaciers appeared.
Aoraki (Mt. Cook) rises 10,000 feet above the valley floor, itself at about 2,000.
The Hermitage resort provides a base for exploring the area.