Driving alongside the southern edges of Lake Pukaki we are, once again, enchanted with the color of the water we’re seeing here on the South Island. Again we see the incredible blue color that we are now beginning to associate with area of New Zealand. Both my husband and I suspect the intense blue color must have something to do with the minerals found on the islands and in fact we find that we are partially correct in that. This truly incredible blue color comes from the “glacial flour” (finely ground rock particles from the glaciers) that travels here from melting glaciers. Add to that gorgeous color the stunning backdrop of Aoraki/Mount Cook and one could sit here watching the scenery for hours, if not days.
Lake Pukaki is an alpine lake running north/south in the Mackenzie Basin. There are two other lakes in this basin that parallel it, Lakes Tekapo (which we visited on the way here) and Lake Ohau (which we, unfortunately, did not see). Terminal moraines of receding glaciers blocked each of these lakes respective valleys, forming the three moraine-dammed lakes. Lake Pukaki is the largest at 169 sq. km. (65 sq. miles) and is fed from its northern end by the braided Tasman River, which is partly fed by two melting glaciers, the Tasman and the Hooker, east of the Southern Alps and close to Aoraki/Mount Cook.
Aoraki/Mount Cook, which can be seen dominating the background of the picture below, is 3,754 meters in height (12,313 ft.) and is not only New Zealand’s highest mountain, but the main peak of the beautiful Southern Alps. Originally known to the Maori as Aoraki, the mountain is, according to Maori legend, the tallest of three brothers who were on a voyage around Mother Earth, Papatuanuke. After striking a reef in the ocean their canoe became stranded. The brothers climbed onto the top of the canoe where a cold wind from the south froze them, turning all into stone. The Maori believe that the canoe became the South Island of New Zealand, and that Aoraki, the tallest of the brothers became the highest peak on the island. The crew and the other brothers became the other mountains of the Southern Alps.
Now, while all of that is interesting in-itself… the picture below is (ahemm… sorry, I truly don’t mean to sound boastful), however, the picture is GORGEOUS! The phenomenal water color and that background is what makes the southern shores of Lake Pukaki an outstanding must stop to see place in New Zealand. Anyone can take a stunning picture when you have such a stunning backdrop! And I, while standing in a bracing wind waiting patiently for the clouds to clear, I should have been freezing… but it was just too beautiful of a sight to feel anything but awe at the miracle of God and Nature.