On the morning of our departure from Fox we were warned that rain was forecast. However at that time, I had no idea how ominous that could be. Fortunately the weather stayed dry for our short journey from there to Haast, hugging the Westland National park, and on to the coastline with long lingerings look at the Tasman sea.
After a lazy lunch break at the ‘Grumpy Cow’ (the staff were pleasant but the meal not so good for vegetarians but I was more than happy with the Whitebait!) we headed for Haast beach at Hannah’s Clearing and our Airbnb cabin. The ‘to the beach’ sign soon had us raring to go and sure enough there it was just within a 5 minute walk. Miles of sand, no people and a generous littering of desiccated trees in various states of skeletal decay.
…And for every grain of sand there was an equal amount of sandflies (though these small black blood-sucking flies do not restrict themselves to sand!)
Early Maori legend even has it that the god Tu-te-raki-whanoa had just finished creating the landscape of Fiordland, but the landscape was so stunning in beauty that when the underworld goddess Hine-nui-te-po saw the fiord’s beauty, she feared that visitors would never leave, so she released sandflies (namu) to chase them away.
And so we quickly hot-footed it back to sanctuary but not before at least one of us was bitten to smithereens and that meant more nights of excruciating itching. When I woke, there was a timpanic battering on the tin roof as the rains had arrived and yet our washing left out on the veranda, looked much more damp and despondent than I felt. [just 3 days later, this part of the West Coast experienced a red alert weather warning with very heavy rains and flooding].
Yes, we had come to Haast to view the night sky in this most uninhabited, unpolluted part of the South Island but once again the weather had scuppered plans so we set off with half a wish to stay, ultimately heading for Queenstown, but first a stop off at the famous Wanaka lake and lunch in the eponymous town.
Leaving the coast behind, the Highway 6 route takes the Haast Pass, a winding inland journey through a part of the Southern Alps. Travelling alongside the rushing Haast river, past waterfalls, Westland rainforest, and right through Mt Aspiring National Park. For mile after mile there is no sign of ‘civilisation’ until out of the blue on the road at Makarora a gigantic ice cream cone alerts us to a coffee stop and cafe – and petrol too if needed.
Fully refreshed on all counts, we continued on to the North side of lake Wanaka – a must-stop viewing point where the camera just cannot get enough of the landscape.
After that it was on to the bustling touristy town of Wanaka for a quick getaway lunch and the journey onward to Queenstown – but that is for next time.