After we got back from the Catlins, Dan and I spent a day getting some food, gearing up the van, and started the long haul back up to the north island. We Drove from Dunedin to Wanaka for a quick stop and to show Dan the spectacular mountain view that the little holiday mountain town had to offer. From there we drove west, through the mountains towards the wild west coast of the south island. To access the one road that runs up the west side of the spine of the southern alps we had to go through the Hasst past.
We arrived in the very small (a cafe and a garage / gas station) town of Haast on fumes. towards the end of daylight. We wanted to get gas and drive about another hour, but the gas station was closed and there was no way to pay at the pump to get any, so we decided to spend the night on the road. We found a little gate and gravel road that opened to a large river valley. We saw a few campers set up and decided to drive into the bush, find a flat spot and set up camp.
The Next morning we awoke, made breakfast, filled the gas tank and started to rally up the lonley west coast highway. We drove on the single lane road for several hours through temperate rain forest. Massive vegetation and trees lined the road. After about 3 hours we began to run along the coast line. At first we were driving high up on mountain side switch back roads that sporadically offered a small clearing to view the rocky, toothy surf battered west coastline. It was beautiful. One part of the road ran along the coast at sea level. The shore was rocky and hundreds of carins lined the beach between the road and sea. I wanted to surf this area as it is considered the least surf explored area of New Zealand. It is also renown for having massive swell coming out of the unruly Tasman sea. Usually one has to wait until the surf eases to head out. Of course the day we where driving was almost flat, and very rare occurrence.
One of the largest attractions on the west coast are two glaciers that can be driven to and viewed. The Fox and Franz Josef glaciers are accessible from the main road, and are a pretty awesome sight.
After a rainy visit to the glaciers we headed to the largest city on the west coast, Grey Mouth. One of the main items to eat here is called wait bait. it is literally small bait fish. Most of the time they fry it into an omelet. At $100 a kilo (2.2 pounds) its an expensive delicacy. I have to say I really don’t understand the draw of this food as it is relatively tasteless, or like very light white fish.But when in Rome…..
The next morning we woke and headed to Castle Hill to rock climb, which I described in a previous post. To get to Castle hill we needed to head back through the mountains to the eastern spine of the alps. To get there we needed to drive through the magnificent Aurthur’s Pass. I had been half way through the pass months earlier when I went to Temple Basin, the classic kiwi ski field. I was excited to drive the entire pass this time.
On the other side of the pass is a small town and a rest area perfect for lunch. We decided to heat up a little water and make soup and noodles. While we where cooking these cheeky Kia birds showed up.
After Castle Hill we headed back through Aurthur’s Pass and back to Grey Mouth for a night. We then moved on to Nelson, the sunniest place on the south island. This region is at the very top of the island and home to one of the most vibrant wine growing areas. Its a beautiful area that houses the Able Tasman National Park, the most visited park in New Zealand
We spent a night in Nelson and the next morning headed for the Ferry to the North Island. We Arrived in Wellington and spent 2 rainy days walking the city.
The third day we headed towards Taupo Lake, at the center of the North Island. It took us about 5 hours to drive and arrived in the late afternoon. This was a rest day, but I was able to get some amazing sunset shots.
Next stop Auckland!