Saturday, May 11, 2013

Aoraki / Mount Cook

Another view of Mount Cook station emphasizing its proximity to Aoraki. One day we visited the station to walk the Alps to Ocean bike trail, two warm days later with a strong up lake wind we found the previously high and dry flat covered with a foot of water from the rising river. Winter here must be traumatic.
The road to Aoraki runs up the west side of the lake. Mt Cook has been a tourist destination since the 1880s, originally for the mountain climbing. It quickly became a mountain retreat with the construction of the original Hermitage in 1884 and regular rebuilds expanding the "Swiss-style alpine village" of Mount Cook.
The Village of Mount Cook

A wonderful source for a highly visual history of New Zealand tourism is Selling the Dream: The Art of Early New Zealand Tourism. The Hermitage features discretely in almost all of the promotional posters for the resort. These, dating from the early 1930s, were produced by the New Zealand Department of Travel Services which operated the Hermitage for much of the twentieth century.

Leaving the coastal plain of farms and sheep stations and rising into the high country of Aoraki is an entry into a dramatic and and challenging environment. At the same time looking out over the active ice fields and the human induced changes here - land clearing, dam building, forestry plantations and introduced deer and other animals - gives some insights of the processes of the human desire to remake new places into new homelands.

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