Sunday 21 February 2016

NZ Roadtrip Haast: Lakes, river, rock

It's a sad fact of life that we (I) very quickly come to take things for granted: like today's soaring scenery of mountains, alpine rivers, pristine blue lakes, lush bush. Did we perhaps use up the day's awedness by tripping along again to #thatwanakatree to capture another of its photogenic faces? It was pretty gorgeous, and no wonder there was a virtual queue there of people all wanting to stand on the identical spot to frame the tree perfectly against the mountains beyond, this morning set off by a delicate wisp of cloud.
So, we left town and drove along the shores of Lake Hawea and then past the top of Lake Wanaka before diving into the mountains and along Highway 6 through the low Haast Pass to the West Coast. I hadn't been this way since 1980, when the road was unpaved and we'd forgotten to fix down our caravan's floor pump for the water. Amazing how much dust will filter up through a hole in the floor, and settle itself everywhere. Worth it, though, for all the waterfalls, fast-flowing river, cyclists, bush, tree ferns, one-lane bridges... and it was the same today. Just a bit more populous.
We stopped at the Blue Pools at Makarora, which were luminously aqua and clear but sadly with no trout to be seen. We also unfortunately arrived at the same time as two big coaches, so it was pretty crowded - made the Poms feel at home, anyway. Just like the Lake District!
We made another couple of stops to breathe the fresh mountain air, get up close to a waterfall and wonder about the compulsion some people have to build little pebble towers wherever they go: much better than old-time tagging the rocks, of course, but getting a little out of control in some places.
The Gates of Haast are pretty impressive, the Makarora River roaring and foaming down a narrow pass, past tumbles of huge boulders that clearly get shifted around periodically.
And then we were at Haast, at our Airbnb which this time was part of a hangar which housed a couple of small planes. Not fancy - bunks - but good enough for a night. We ate at the Hard Antler, not recommended for its ambiance but cheerful and friendly, and unsurprisingly very sporty (though the tahr and deer heads on the wall looked on disapprovingly). Good whitebait patty, even better lamb shanks.
This was my low point of the road trip: too much time closeted in the car, regretting having agreed to have constant company, and then, finally, getting sick. Cough, headache, shivers, sore throat, nausea. Flu? Possibly. Definitely no fun.

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