19. Tasman Glacier

On our day of shifting ourselves to Mt Cook village, we woke up to see a long line of cyclists biking along the Pukaki Canal – we think there might be a cycling event on today.
The drive along Lake Pukaki to Mt Cook was very picturesque. We couldn’t see Aoraki/Mt Cook itself, though it looked as though the clouds might lift before long. We booked into the White Horse Campground. There were so many people there I felt a bit uncomfortable. It was crammed in every corner with cars, campers and tents. People were tending to ignore one another than to stop and chat. Certain sites in NZ must get advertised overseas as you only get such quantities in certain spots – other places that are just as lovely have almost no-one visiting.
We detached the car from the caravan and drove around to the Tasman Glacier. First stop, the Blue Lakes. These lakes were once truly blue, back when they were part of the glacier and being fed by fresh meltwater. But due to global warming the glacier has retreated so far that they have become independent lakes fed by rainwater and groundwater, and that’s why they are now green.
Another of the Blue Lakes.
And Kevin standing in the middle of a third, very dry.
A closer look at some of the different bush showed up lots of berries. Berry season! This one is a kind of coprosma in fruit – you can eat these berries.
This is Rohutu and you can eat these berries too.
Everywhere we go, the butterflies have different markings.
The final Blue Lake – then the track turned overgrown and joined up with another track that led up the valley to the glacier. We turned back as we wanted to climb some stairs we had passed to the terminal moraine for a view of the Tasman Glacier lake.
We climbed up lots of steps to the glacier lake. The words are French and apparently say, ‘Travellers’ philosophy: love far away places the way you love yourself’. A nice way of saying ‘be mindful and look after the whole world’ I think!
Tasman Lake! The glacier is very far away – just the tiniest bit of white ice to be see rounding the corner of the range. The humpy ground in the foreground is distinctive of a retreating glacier and likely it won’t be too long before it’s grown over in tussocks.
This ice has broken off the face of the glacier and floated down to the foot of the lake. With a southerly wind imminent, it will likely be blown back up the lake.
This is a view from the terminal moraine looking down the valley the way we drove in – around the end of the closest range on the right is Mt Cook village.
A 4×4 road leads nearer to the foot of the lake – you can also walk down from the terminal moraine on a less well-trod trail.
The clouds cleared and we could see Aoraki/Mt Cook! Kevin decided to return to the car now, while I went on the see the little icebergs close up.
The company Glacier Explorers runs from this small bay. They have been unable to work for two weeks now, due to the ice blocking their access to the lake. Frustrating for them, and for anyone wanting to take the tour. One of the workers I talked with said it was very unusual, but a crevassed part of the glacier had broken away meaning more ice than normal floating on the lake. He was looking forward to the southerly front that would mean they could run again. Shortly after that I met an English tourist who didn’t want the southerly as she’d been told the temperature would drop to 8degC and she had only shorts and t-shirts with her! I felt for her! but at least could reassure her it shouldn’t last more than 24 hours and there are always indoor warm places to be found!
From the Glacier Explorer jetty, I broke this piece of ice off one of the icebergs – it quickly melted in the heat of the day – hard to believe it’s going to get cold in the next day or two.
I walked on down the lake to the end. Looking back, Aoraki is looking just stunning!
The ice at the very foot of the lake…
…with the Tasman River flowing out of the lake…
…and down along the valley.
Mosses everywhere – the one in the background is woolly moss.
We drove back to the White Horse Campground – Aoraki from this angle still looks majestic! Of course we couldn’t park next to the caravan as all the spaces were taken up by other vehicles, so we crammed it in next to some rocks, off the road and out of the way of everyone else.
These rabbits in the campground were not at all scared! They were supremely confident that no-one here was about to trap or shoot them – lots of people were cooing over them and taking photos. I guess you have to be aware of local issues to understand the immense damage rabbits have done to the South Canterbury and Otago environments. Unbelievable now, but it was locals in the 1800’s who put them there in the first place…

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