In the hit parade of the world's scenic drives, New Zealand's Highway 8 is in a category all its own. We had no idea that the drive to Mount Cook would be so beautiful, but the region is unrelentingly breathtaking. Just as you habituate to 360 degrees of jagged, glistening, snow-covered mountains and scrape your jaw up off the floor of your rented Corolla, the road dumps you out beside the milky, celadon-green waters of Lake Pukaki. We had hoped to hike the Kea Point Trail when we got to Mount Cook, but the cloud cover only worsened. When we woke up to a solid white sky and sheeting rain, we figured we had two options: hang out at our lovely lodge, The Hermitage, or find the Sun and follow it elsewhere for the day. We chose the latter.
The sky was still grey when we left the mountain, but a faint rainbow ahead gave us hope.
And then, for the second time in a day, we reached Lake Pukaki.
We pulled off the road at least a dozen times. We snapped a few pictures, but mostly we gaped at the water. The sky looked blue toward the east, so we set our sights on Lake Tekapo.
New Zealand has just about exhausted our ability to describe various shades of blue and green. For Lake Pukaki, we settled on celadon. Lakes Wanaka and Hawea are indisputably azure. Lake Tekapo is turquoise. Backlit turquoise.
We enjoyed our walk at Lake Tekapo, but we decided to leave ourselves enough time for the Kea Trail, just in case Mount Cook's personal rain cloud lifted. As we approached the turnoff to the mountain, though, the sky darkened and strong winds jolted the car (and the trees) from side to side.
If the sun shines for us tomorrow morning, we'll stay long enough for that short trail. If it doesn't, then we're off bright and early to Oamaru and its many penguins.