Saturday, September 30, 2006

Into the West Coast

After a brief stop in Wanaka, which actually looks like a reasonably nice little town, we drove out towards the West Coast. The road is bordered on either side by Lake Wanaka and Lake Hawea and veers between the two so that for the first part of the journey we had lovely lake views as well as the obligatory mountains that go with them. After Makarora is the Mount Aspiring National Park, densely forested mountain slopes. We made stops at the Blue Pools, which are well named, being blue pools. The snow and glacial melt-water that supplies the river here is very cold and the refraction of light from it makes it look a deep blue colour. Following the trail from the road through the Beech forest we came to a rickety little bridge. Over this lay the Blue Pools. The information board next to it said that big Trout should have been visible. We couldn't see any. We did see lots of Sandflies, New Zealand's favourite biting insect.

We drove over the Haast Pass and officially into the West Coast region. We took another quick rest stop at Thunder Creek Falls, a reasonably large and pretty waterfall. Some way on from the Falls we reached the coast itself and the little village of Haast. We stopped there for lunch. About 30km North of Haast is Knight Point, a lookout on the clifftop. The view out over the Tasman sea took n some small rocky outcroppings and a beach where we could just make out the shapes of Seals (or Sea Lions) lying on the sand.

At Lake Moeraki we stopped again and took the fairly long walk through the forest to Monro Beach. On the West side of the mountains the character and composition of the forest changes. There seemed to be many more species of tree, festooned with mosses, as well as a profusion of tree ferns. The light filtered haphazardly through the trees and the whole place seemed somewhat primeval. Although Monro Beach is a nesting site for Fiordland Crested Penguins, we didn't manage to see any. The beach itself was worth the walk though. Across on some rocks out from the beach we could see the movement of a seal. I would have stayed longer, but the Sandflies decided they wanted to eat me alive. I think Gemma was feeling smug that finally I was getting bitten and not just her.

Back in the van we made a sprint for the town of Fox Glacier. So named because it sits next to the Fox Glacier. We wanted to catch the change in light at the end of the day on Lake Matheson, which reflects the peaks of some of the largest mountains, including Mount Cook. Unfortunately for us the weather had different ideas. The mountains were covered all over by a low hanging cloud. We resolved to try again the next day and checked in at the slightly shabby, and expensive with it, Fox Glacier Holiday Park.

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