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Published: March 28th 2011
Day 13 – Saturday 26th of March
After a bad night’s sleep from the thunderstorm we had yet another sleep in and a late start. After emptying our toilet and refilling our water (daily chores in the campervan world) we set out for a long day of driving. Our goal for the day was to make it to the glaciers just north of the Haast Pass.
The long drive took us directly through the Mt Aspiring National Park. One of only a few in the world that is protected as a UNESCO World Heritage Site – basically the highest level of environmental protection that can be given. Other areas with the same protection include the Himalayas and the Grand Canyon. This natural wonderland made our trip even longer as we succumbed to several temptations to stop and walk to spots of interest. The first of which were the Haast Blue Pools (yet another tick off our 101 Must Do for Kiwis list). Unfortunately today the pools were brown, not blue. The storm the night before had kicked up some gravel and flooded the pools, thereby turning the pools in to a mucky colour. Apparently they need another flooding to
clean them back out. Bad luck for us. Bummer!
The next few stops were all about the waterfalls. After the storm the night before, the waterfalls of the region were abundant and flowing with a vengeance. Fantail Falls was the first and only a 2 minute walk off the highway. Apparently a water-wheel was placed at its base while the Haast Pass was being built in order to help power the machinery used in construction. Next we stopped mid-highway to look at waterfalls that simply come down right next to the road. While not on any sight-seeing lists, they were definitely worth the stop. Side-by-side were The Trickle No1 and The Trickle No2..... Trickle? I don’t think so! Someone was having a good laugh when they named these twin waterfalls! Next was Diana Falls - a single pretty waterfall, again roadside. Luckily there was no traffic around for this one and we simply stopped in the middle of the road to have a gawk.
Off we went again, over the Gates of Haast (no relation to the Gates of Hell, but they do resemble one another!) which was a vital bridge linking the West Coast to the Otago
region. On our way we passed by several more roadside waterfalls and many more DOC signs indicating walks to even more impressive waterfalls. One we didn’t need to stop to admire was Roaring Billy which was just gigantic. We could see it clearly from the road and so didn’t cave in to the desire to walk 20 mins to see it.
A quick stop at Haast township for a bite to eat and we were on the road yet again. Next stop – Fox Glacier!... however, and this one is for Emily!, we came across a beach called Maori Beach within Bruce Bay (just north of the Mt Aspiring National Park border). We quickly called a truce on our Slap-a-Camper game as there was a horde of campers pulled to the side of the road – oddly enough they were all Kea’s, like ours! Odd, at least we thought so. That was until we passed them and saw what they were doing... stacking rocks!! And branches and anything else they could find. We hadn’t read about this beach in any tourist book; however our good friend Emily had mentioned it a while back and so quickly recognised it for
what it was. The entire length of the beach had all these little stacks of rocks, each passerby, tourist and local... and of course newly-weds making their mark and leaving a note. So a quick stop was made and we built our own.
We pulled up to the parking area of Fox Glacier and it was already starting to sprinkle with a little rain. We pulled on our wet-weather gear, laced up our expensive new walking shoes and set out on a mission to see the glacier up close and personal. On our way we encountered several groups making their way hurriedly back, all looking like drowned rats! Not a promising image to encounter. But on we trekked. Then the heavens really opened up. However, we did make it. By 5.30pm we were safely and warmly wrapped up in our dry camper, having shaken off the stinging cold of the rain. Off we set with our minds firmly placed on settling in for the night in Franz Josef Township and tackling the next glacier tomorrow. However....
...we made good time over the hills and the weather cleared. We decided to risk a look in at the someone longer
trek to Franz Josef Glacier and chance that the weather would be better to us this time. Thankfully it was. The walk, whilst longer, was easier and the glacier itself a joy to look at. The view of the glacier was much closer and a better angle to see up the mountain. The viewing platform was mere metres from the river flowing out the bottom of the glacier and we were witnesses to great chunks of ice tumbling down the river. The noise of the ice crashing in to one another and the rock-bed was horrendous and we were worried that it was actually the skies threatening to open on us again! Definitely worth the trek and glad we visited them in the order we did.
Being close to 8pm by the time we were all done, we decided dinner was in order and stopped at the local Speight’s Ale House in Franz Josef Township. We decided to forgo the stay in the town and instead make another night drive up the coast to a DOC site near Hokitika. This drive included some pretty hairy corners, some sections of which seemed like there were 10 km of nothing by
25-35km/hr corner after corner. We made a quick toilet stop in Hari Hari (just over the hills) where Renee got the fright of her life when some guy came out of his house and approached her window. Luckily he was simply a kindly local, out on his deck for a Saturday night brew and wanted to know if we were lost, could he help us. Off we went, Renee’s heart settling slowly back to a normal rhythm (eventually asleep!) while Matt drove the remaining straight roads to the Lake Mahinapua DOC site. No storms tonight... please!
Tot: 1.853s; Tpl: 0.056s; cc: 11; qc: 50; dbt: 0.0227s; 1; m:saturn w:www (22.214.171.124); sld: 3;
; mem: 1.4mb