Thursday, October 17, 2013

West Coast Road Trip - Haast to Karamea

We spent the next day in Queenstown, doing our washing, visiting a couple of the smaller wineries, Mt Rosa and Brennan in the Kawarau Valley and giving our legs a break. Before setting off to the west coast on Sunday.....We had previously tried to visit the west coast during the summer of 2010? And had ended up retreating east to Hanmer Springs to escape the wet weather.... The forecast for the upcoming week wasn’t looking promising either. We weren’t sure we would get through to the west coast over Haast Pass, which had been closed regularly over the last few weeks due to bad weather causing rock falls and washing away 100 m of the road.

Lake Hawea
As we headed down Lake Hawea towards west coast the sky grew greyer and it started to rain... but we made it through the Haast Pass – just!... the road was closed by the time we got to Haast and remained closed for the next few days.  We spent the next day hanging out at Fox Glacier while the heavens emptied on the west coast. We briefly visited the Department of Conservation office to find out if there was anything that we could do in the pouring rain. But almost everything was closed due to flooding. We did go for a very wet walk around Lake Matheson – but with no views of Mt Cook today....

Blue Pools on the way to Haast Pass

Thunder Creek Falls

The next day we woke to some clearer weather and managed to make it up towards Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers. The Rangers were just opening up the tracks again after the floods. There were lots of lumps of ice and the rivers were raging. The sun even came out a couple of times... Because the rivers were still very high and the clouds were still pretty low, we couldn’t do any tramps that were more ambitious in this region.

What's left of Fax Glacier

Franz Joseph Glacier (the upper part anyway)

So we continued north and went to check out the Hokitika Gorge – which instead of being a beautiful blue was a muddy grey.... and as it wasn’t raining late afternoon, so we camped beside Lake Kaniere (although it did rain overnight and Aaron wasn’t happy).  The next day we revisited Punakaiki – the pancake rocks. Late morning the sun decided to join us again and we walked along charming creek walkway, an old railway line along a narrow gorge. Then we drove up to Karamea and had dinner on the beach at the end of the Heaphy Track. The final day on the west coast we visited the impressive limestone arches of the Oparara Basin near Karamea.
Waterfall on Charming Creek Walkway

Oparara Arch - 200 metres long and 37m high

Obviously we are slightly jinxed when it comes to the west coast weather – although when an area gets up to 7m a year of rain (16m maximum recorded in one river catchment) it isn't too surprising that you experience some - but I think we got slightly more than our fair share for the 4 days we were there! 

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