We woke to the pitter-patter of rain on the roof of the van in Mount Cook National Park, on day 5 of our road trip around the South Island of New Zealand.
As I slid the clunky van door open, I could see clouds rolling along the base of the mountains around us at White Horse Hill campsite.
“Finally, I get to put my raincoat on.” Mark, however, didn’t look anywhere near as enthused by the rain.
We packed up (pretty much shut the van door and drove off) after breakfast, and started the very short drive to Tasman Glacier and the Blue Lakes Walk – literally a 10min drive from the Hooker Valley Track carpark.
Tasman Glacier Walk
The walk (or climb, depending on your thoughts towards stairs) up to see the Tasman Glacier demands powerful knees and sturdy ankles. But, the views are totally worth it once you reach the Tasman Lake viewing point. Yep. Lake. Not Glacier.
The ice has retreated so much that all you will see is a 26km long lake, with dirty ice at the very back, leading up to the foot of a mountain.
Blue Lakes Walk (Spoiler – It’s Actually Green)
On your way back down the steps, turn to your right and start the Blue Lakes Walk.
Follow along the rocky trail, squeezing through prickly bushes, past 3 large green lakes. Side-stepping animal droppings along the way, we wondered if we were supposed to be walking over the rocks beside the trail, or if the trail actually ended back at lake number one…
If you do choose to follow our questionable trail around, you’ll pop out at the road where the 4×4 Tasman Glacier Troopys drive toward the back of the lake.
We followed the road back to the carpark, hopped in the van, and began the drive to Lake Pukaki reserve, leaving Mount Cook in the rear view mirror.
Lake Pukaki Reserve
We stopped off for an early lunch by the lake, rather unsure of where to go next.
We sat down on the camp-chairs, with a bread roll in hand and rain gently tapping us on the head.
It was nice for a minute or so, but when rain picked up we hopped in the van and started the 2hr 30min drive toward the Blue Pools Walk, which sits along Haast Pass, just past Lake Wanaka.
Hot Tubs in Omarama
On the way, we stopped off for a dip in the Hot Tubs of Omarama. A few nights earlier, two local kids recommended we gave these hot tubs a try if we passed through Omarama, “Mum said it was like, the nicest shit ever.” I’m 99% sure he meant the tubs were rather pleasant, and we should indulge in the delightful hot water ourselves.
For $50 a person, you’ll get yourself a private tub, with a private change room (which is actually a hut), a bottle of cold water and two cups. With a view of a lake, ducks and fish dipping flapping about, and mountains all around, it’s safe to say this spot was not bad – especially after 4 nights sleeping in the back of a van.
Once you pass through Omarama, you’ll start driving through Lindis Pass. The narrow roads wind between tall rolling green hills, and there’s a good reason for the signage telling you to slow down.
We drove past Lake Haewa, a 36km lake, with tall mountains jutting out of the water, and bumpy farmland covered with (wait for it) sheep.
Cameron Flat Campsite
Cameron Flat campsite is a great place to stay outside of Lake Wanaka’s busy tourist town. This is also where you can start Blue Pools Track.
We stayed there on NYE, and there were only two other cars. There’s plenty of room for people to set up tents, and a nice view of the mountains all around, and a river right over the road. But, the rain was belting down, so we spent the evening playing pick-up sticks. Great way to ring in 2017, if I do say so myself.
- Cameron flat costs $8 per car.
- There are two disgusting toilets.
- There’s a tap with running water for cleaning dishes – we chose not to drink from there.
- There’s an undercover area with a table.
- There are a shitload of sand flies. I give this campsites sandfly rating a 17/10.