Hiking the Hooker Valley Track [South Island, NZ]

“Hey Mark, can you see that mountain goat up there?”

“Yeah, there’s a whole pack of them!”

We lied. There were no mountain goats. But the couple in front of us spent the remaining 3km of the hike turning their heads to the peaks trying to spot those darn goats.

With the first four freezing cold days of our road-trip behind us, we were not accustomed to the unusually stagnant heat in the valley of Mount Cook. It was close to 1pm when we started the track, so the heat of the day was well and truly in it’s prime.

I’d seen so many photos of the Hooker Valley (not to be mistaken for a Nightlife district in Bangkok), but the real deal surpassed all my expectations by miles — literally. When we read 5km on the sign, it didn’t cross our minds that we’d actually be walking 10km (return).

Yet again, we’d set off on a hike with high spirits, and not enough water. At-least this time we weren’t wearing thongs.

We wound our way along the rocky pathway.

Over three deceivingly bouncy suspension bridges.

And squeezed past others on the narrow wooden bridge.

Not without climbing a bunch of rocks along the way…

Each corner turned revealed another long path, every time creating the illusion that the end is near.

When we finally reached the end of the track, a breeze coming off the glacial ice-melt froze us in our tracks, and the sheer size of Mount Cook took my breath away — not metaphorically speaking — I was huffing and puffing due to physical exhaustion.

We went down to sit on the rocky shores, where the glacial lake lapped at our feet as we each scoffed down a muesli bar.

Giant icebergs creaked and cracked as they rolled around in the water, occasionally revealing the belly beneath.

If you sit there for long enough, you might even hear the rumble of a small avalanche tumbling above.

Once the cool ice-melt breeze became more uncomfortable than refreshing, we got up and started the 5km walk back to the van. But, with a bag of chips and a tub of dip waiting for us in the van, we sped up the pace.

Not that walking isn’t entertaining enough, I decided to play silly buggers with the others on the trail.

“EAGLE!” I shouted, as a group of tourists walked past us.

I was kidding. There was no eagle.

Mark giggled uncontrollably behind me as two old ladies ducked, covering their heads in fear that a giant bird was about to whisk them away. He did not see that one coming — and neither did the they.

A couple were walking in front of us, at a very similar pace, just close enough to hear our conversations.

“Hey Mark, can you see that mountain goat up there?”

“Yeah, there’s a whole pack of them!”

We lied. There were no mountain goats. But they spent the remaining 3km of the hike turning their heads to the peaks trying to spot those darn goats.

We made it back to the campsite without being punched in the nose, grabbed a bag of chips, opened up the dip, and sat on our beanbags as the sun went down.

It was time for another early night, because tomorrow, we’d be up early to see Tasman Glacier, and head straight for our next stop, Lake Wanaka.

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