We finished the previous day’s canyoning jaunt quite late so we were keen to find a pit stop for the night and to make ourselves some food as soon as possible, therefore on our journey from the canyoning spot, on the north east edges of Lake Wanaka, to Haast, the first town you come to when you’re through the mountains, was a rushed one. You couldn’t deny however the beauty of the place and we promised ourselves we’d backtrack the next day to explore and get some pics.
It was rainy and the sky was grey. Not a soft pale grey, a moody dark grey. We didn’t let this weigh us down (at this point anyway) and we headed back along Haast Pass to see if we could be knocked out by more fantastic scenery. The River Haast starts somewhere in the Alps and carrys for around 100km to the sea and the majority of it flows through the rain forest on the west side of the island. Its named after some German fella I think and the name aptly works with the mythical scenery to which the River calls its home. THE GATES OF HAAST is printed on a sign either side of one of the many one lane’d bridges and underneath flows a powerful torrent of water. If you get too close it really does take your breath away and the sound it makes crashing into the giant rocks which inhabit its bed is brutal.
We stopped at this site to take a few snaps and also at another site a bit closer to Haast township, where we stayed, called Roaring Billy Falls. Roaring Billy Falls is a cascade of water down the side of one of the bush and tree covered mountains which adds itself to the Haast river at one of its more ‘calmer’ points. You can park up about a kilometre away and walk through a colourful jungle track until it opens up into what looks like a large rocky beach. The beach is actually a river bead and if there’s been a storm or torrential down pours, the Haast River will use its bed to the full. Apparently its half a mile wide in some parts. Luckily for us the river was having one of its more sedate days and we could walk over to get a decent view of Roaring Billy.
By the time we’d got back in the car the rain had started to get quite heavy and although we would have loved to have put in a few kilometers with our feet, we thought it best to spend the best part of the day driving so we pushed on up the west coast towards Franz Josef Glacier. We were forced (or rather I was by Milly and her empty stomach) to stop at possibly the only ‘stoppable’ place between Haast and Franz Josef (and you’re talking like 150km of pretty relentless coastal road), a salmon farm/cafe. Guess what was on the menu? We threw back a Salmon Stack (sort of like a warm club sandwich with salmon instead of bacon) and a creamy pasta (and salmon of course) dish, paid what seemed like a fortune, and made our way back to Brucey.
Unlike the east side of New Zealand where the landscape is simply agricultural and the centre which is nice lakes, hills, mountains and otherwise quite dry and barren, the west coast is green. Hours and hours we drove along twisty mountain side lanes which if you overshot you weren’t surviving and all you could see was green: bright greens, emerald greens, blue greens, cyan greens, electric greens, fern greens, lime greens, reddy greens, olive greens, eat-your-greens….. apart from the tarmac we were driving on and the grey, grey sky, everywhere was green.
We got to Glacier County (which consists of Fox and Franz Josef glaciers and their respective townships) and nearly ran over an eagle eating the corpse of some road kill (sorry we couldn’t get a camera out in time) and it was still throwing it down. As we pulled into a campsite in Franz, Milly went to pay and the guy told us the weather was here for at least the immediate future because a storm was due to hit. This is shit because there isn’t much you really want to do indoors when you’re in New Zealand. It’s pretty much an outdoorsy sort of place. We decided that the best thing for it would be to head to the local boozer and try some local ales. We popped to the Alice May which is in the heart of the town and sunk a couple of ships. Me, the local brewery Montieth’s, Milly, some red wine from Chile.
After Mill had become drunken we decided it best to call it a night and headed back to the site and sat listening to the rain bucket down.
When we awoke the rain hadn’t really relented so we crossed straight over the road to the local Tourist Information centre to ask what they suggested we do given the weather situation. We then decided we didn’t care what the weather was going to do and we were going for a walk regardless. There are quite a few which you can do which will give you a nice sight of the glacier but we pipped for the Valley Walk which is a simple 2.5km. Along the route we counted ourselves lucky that we’d done the Tasman Glacier walk the previous week when we had the nice weather because we’ve heard stories of people waiting for ages for the weather to clear around the Fox and Franz. The walk was lovely and just what we needed to lift our hearts as they had nearly drowned in all the wet weather. The views of the glacier were sweet-as once the cloud had lifted a little and the blue which it radiates makes it look like its been contaminated with some form of plutonium (or blutonium :)). We slowly trooped back to the Bruce and Mills demanded that we have sausage butties in the car park.
As we cooked our lush butties a little friend popped onto Brucey’s roof. It was a Kea! They’re an odd little parrot and apparently one of the most intelligent birds there is. They’re only found in New Zealand’s south island and there’s approx. 5,000 left in the wild. It was curious how unmoved he was by our presence and when we opened the door he took a little peak inside (presumably to see if there was any food knocking about). Mill couldn’t help herself and she had to feed him despite there being literally hundereds of signs all over the island saying ‘Please do not feed the Kea’. She managed to throw him/her some bread just when one of the park wardens came past and they respectfully told us not to feed it. This however didn’t deter Mill and she cunningly pinched half a buscuit off me to feed him with. From herewith she is to be called Milly the Deceiver as she swore to me that she wouldn’t feed it to him and she did.
After the Kea fun we jumped into Bruce and headed further up the coast to our abode for the evening, Hokitika. The rain had briefly relented at this point and we familiarised ourself with the lovely family run site, which was a stone’s throw away from the sea, by doing some washing and grubbing up some tea.
At around 7pm whilst it was still grey but dry we headed over to the camp’s pond where the owners and their son were feeding their pet eels (bizarre I know). Following eel feeding, they opened up their petting corner and gleefully Milly took her place (in front of a 6 year-old-girl) on a stool and stroked a guinea pig. They had a number of other playful animals; a large rabbit, a pomerranium, a parrot, some hens, geese, a sheep with a limp and a 3 month old goat who was having the time of his life. Honestly it was off it’s tits – jumping around everywhere.
Once zoo corner had finally finished we chilled out in the camp kitchen and played ‘The Matching Game’ where you have to match cards that have been turned over and following this we played ‘Pick up Sticks’, where you get points for the colour of stick you pick up without disturbing others in the pile. We prayed for good weather so we could discover the place in the morning without getting drenched, however our prayers were not answered as a storm crashed into the coast as soon as we’d hit the sheets.