Jenny: “Hey David, do you want to take a ride up to the top of the glacier?”
David: “I don’t know, it sounds dangerous. How much does it cost?”
Jenny: “Since you work here it is free………..Hey, where are you going?”
David: “That glacier isn’t going to climb itself and we’re burning daylight. Come on!”
Mt.Cook is one of the most beautiful places I have had the privilege to live and work. It is a National Park and no one is allowed to live there except for the workers of the hotel, hostel, and few restaurants. The nearest town is Twizel, a 35 minute drive along beautiful Lake Pukaki, which is an amazing shade of blue. Actually it is more of a teal color.
So a remote location, yes, yet it is possible to get more remote. One option is to climb the mountains, but I lacked any mountaineering experience and do not overestimate my abilites, explaining why nobody has found me as a popsicle on the side of a mountain. Another and much easier way is to pay for a plane to take you to the top of a glacier. I elected to go this route.
There is an airport and airline that do a few daily flights. I say airline but I mean a plane that takes passengers in a loop. It takes less than an hour and costs quite a bit, but my experience on this planet has shown me that the best experiences are either free or very expensive. However, one of my perks for being a chef at the restaurant was that I got to participate in this experience for free.
The plane is little and powerful. Actually a lot more powerful than I expected. Now I have flown for my whole life on many types of planes and helicopters, in the Air Force and beyond, plus my father and brother are pilots, but this experience blew them all away. That little plane took off in about 5 meters. It felt so strange and unnatural. I loved it. So right from the start I was having a hoot. This feeling would continue for the whole 40 minutes.
We took a zig zag path over a glacier, which sadly was melting and looking quite ugly. It looked dirty and not at all powerful like we see in the National Geographic films. However, I did enjoy the sheer size of the thing and especially flying below the level of the mountains rising on both sides of us. Having a mountain fill your window from bottom to top gets the blood flowing.
When we reached the top of the mountain we circled a few times and then landed on the snow. One of the smoothest and most fun landings of my life. Sliding along the snow and then doing a 180 degree spin at the end(The plane, not me). The stars aligned that day and the weather was perfect. Not a cloud in a sky nor a touch of wind. It was so nice that I left my sweater in the plane and walked around in a T-shirt. How many people can say they have walked on a glacier in their T-shirt? I mean, really.
One one side of the mountain lay the valley where we came from. This view was uninteresting to me. The other side is what captured my full attention. Here I was overlooking the Tasman Sea, from the top of a freaking mountain! I sat down and stared into the distance until what would become my greatest memory hit me. The silence. There was not a sound, not even a hint of sound. I was in a vacuum. It is impossible for me to explain and for you to understand unless you experience the same. You will never know true silence unless you go to this spot in the exact same conditions I went. This moment is where my mind returns when I seek peace, and it probably always will.