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Published: December 12th 2008
West Coast, Tasman Sea just south of Fox Glacier
Fox Glacier to Makarora Thursday 11th December 2008
NOTE: Have just realised that I have put the dates as “November’ instead of “December’ on the last two blogs so need to edit them if possible. Sorry for any confusion! It’s an age thing!
We woke up this morning to mist and rain and it was impossible to see either Fox Glacier or Mounts Cook and Tasman beyond. Access to the glacier was closed due to the big landslide so we decided to “hit the road”, not literally of course, we leave that to the poor possum, colloquially called “Road Pizza”. The possum, once considered to be an endearing creature, is now classed as a menace, due to over-breeding and a taste for bird’s eggs. Their numbers are so huge (and road sense so poor) that throughout New Zealand their bodies litter the roads; we saw more today than anywhere else; they really like this rainforest habitat.
The rainforest is vast and one drives through it for miles and miles. The road south to Haast and on to the Mount Aspiring National Park is dense rainforest, bordered on one side by the rugged and dramatic coast of the Tasman
Need to do a little detour!
Sea and on the other by the Southern Alps. We didn’t see it in its full glory. It was like looking at a painting through a misty window or a jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing, where the mist gathered in crevices and valleys leaving snowy peaks floating above as though on air. It was magical, and for many miles we never saw another vehicle and no hint of humanity. In clearer weather this would surely rate as one of the greatest scenic drives on earth.
The road south from Knights Point to the township of Haast was only built in 1960. Prior to this, Haast was completely cut off from the north and its only access was from Queenstown further south. The road winds around high cliffs with steep drops to the Tasman Sea; there are beaches here that one can only access with mountaineering gear; the vistas of these untouched beaches are astounding. Half way down this switchback drive we were suddenly halted by a landslide and guys with diggers clearing the road. Fortunately, the landslide was opposite a pull-in picnic area so we were able to drive around and continue our journey down to Haast; the downpour
Other side of the landslide
got heavier and it was nice to reach flat land again.
On this west coast the rainfall is heavy (hence such fantastic rainforest). They have rain on average 240 days each year. Most rainforest exists in warmer climes; this rain is cold but it is great when it clears and as if by magic a majestic mountain looms ahead, only to disappear again as more mist rises up from the canopy. It rains so much that it is a tourist feature! In the town of Haast I bought a card in the visitor’s centre, entitled “Rain Poem” which sums it up perfectly, as follows:
It rained and rained and rained
The average fall was well maintained
And when the tracks were simple bogs
It started raining cats and dogs.
After a drought of half an hour
We had a most refreshing shower
And then most curious thing of all
A gentle rain began to fall.
Next day but one was fairly dry
Save for one deluge from the sky
Which wetted the party to the skin
And then at last the Rain set in!
The Maori name for Mount Aspiring is Te Wahipounanu, which means “place
Rushing Billy Falls
and below the falls, the bright blueness of the Haast River
of the greenstone” because there is a lot of jade here. There are also a lot of waterfalls and rushing green, blue and white streams and rivers making their way through the forests and peaks. Despite the rain we spent the day enjoying it all, getting out of the van to take photos at every turn and we also took a few tracks through the forest to see waterfalls. We are camped now in a small place called Makarora, high up in the national park. It isn’t much of a campsite, it is pretty basic (appropriately named “Wilderness Resort”) but the setting is awesome. Part of the view is still shrouded in mist and it is still raining, but we can see through parts of this and there is a waterfall behind us and snowy peaks in front. Maybe tomorrow, before we head on down to Queenstown and “Lord of the Rings” country, we’ll see all of it. There are Tui birds in a big tree next to our van and wild foxgloves and large fern trees all around us. Despite the rain, it really is a delight to be here.
Friday 12th December 2008
Cannot see a
thing this morning, it is cold and damp; mist and rain in this Kiwi summer “Drought”. Off to Queenstown and civilisation; we need to get out of the wilderness and leave it to the poor old hated Possum.
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