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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

New Zealand: A Glacial Christmas

The Minarets on Christmas Eve
The Minarets on Christmas Eve, with the Tasman Glacier in the foreground

Christmas Eve came on a high-pressure front, bringing with it the best weather I've yet seen in New Zealand. By lunchtime there wasn't a cloud in the sky, making Mt Cook shine like a huge beacon, and the three of us popped into town, stocked up on genuine Christmas fayre (as the retail trade likes to call it) and packed our packs. No way were we going to spend the Festive Season in the campground, where the over-zealous wardens had earned the nicknames of Mr and Mrs Himmler; nope, we were planning to go bush for Santa's visit. The place: Ball Shelter, some 16km from Mount Cook village, up the huge Tasman Glacier. Ball Shelter sleeps about six, has very few amenities, and has stunning views of the Minarets, a pretty little multiple-peak mountain that's heavily covered in snow; it certainly sounded like a pretty good spot for Christmas.

Ban and Mira at Ball Shelter
Ben and Mira at the door to Ball Shelter

Asparagus spears in butter and black pepper
Main dish
Pan-fried loins of lamb
Petit pois
Creamed potatoes
Christmas pudding and fresh cream
With mince pies
Delegat's Cabernet Merlot 1995
Guinness Extra Stout
Black Mac
Speight's Distinction Ale

The Minarets
Christmas Eve sunset over the Minarets

It was one of the best meals I've had on the road for some time – made all the tastier by the clean mountain air, no doubt – and the views made the front room at Mt Cook village's famous Hermitage Hotel look pretty tame. Clear skies and twinkling stars framed the pastel-coloured afterglow on the peaks as a full moon rose over the Minarets; it takes a lot to beat that sort of vista. It was the perfect place for Santa to fly across the sky in his sleigh...

Pan-fried chipolatas with sweet chilli sauce
Haricot beans in tomato sauce
Scrambled eggs
Real Ceylon tea

Laden down by packs and full stomachs, we sauntered back to the car park, had some lunch and drove back into the village to recover. We showered and went up to the Hermitage for a lazy afternoon staring at Mt Cook, Mt Sefton and the cloudless sky, and so ended an excellent and most unusual Christmas.