Our time in Queenstown had come to an end, so after our (now typical) morning stop at the BP to top off our Petrol and grab some meaty pies, we were back on the road to add a few more kilometers to the growing tally.
We headed north again – this time along Lake Hawea where we happened upon the southern 45th parallel. Interestingly, the 45th parallel in the northern hemisphere includes the Oregon/Washington area also known for its wines and similar climate.
We continued on past the north side of Lake Wanaka and were quickly heading up into the Haast Pass area. Once again i was surprised that the pass itself seemed quite low in altitude as we drove through low river valleys and tropical forests. After just a few kilometers we did start to be gaining some altitude and with all the rain we’d been getting there were now waterfalls EVERYWHERE… and what were normally streams or trickles were now raging torrents.
A quick stop at Fantail Falls broke up the drive up a bit, and gave us a chance to stretch our legs on the fast and light hike. We didn’t realize it but this set of falls were at least 2-3 times bigger than they normally are- it made for quite a sight!
I had read about another fun stop called the Blue Pools, a light 20-30 minute hike but seeing as the rain was getting heavier and we’d heard some stories about the dangers of the pass we decided to keep moving. All the rain continued to make things interesting – we’d seen a warning saying the pass would close due to construction but it can also be closed due to weather. In particular, the little trickles that run alongside the road or fall along the cliff sides can easily flood and wipe out roads, wash cars down the banks, and make things pretty treacherous.
We got to see the possibilities first hand as we encountered a construction crew working on a bit of road that seemed to be a bit precarious. It looked like they were worried about the road being slick from the spray as well as the weight in general in the turn of the road so they had us going 1 car at a time, slowly but keep moving and NO PHOTOS. That was of course after seeing our car full of photographers but that didn’t stop me from taking a few as we drove by the torrent literally just outside my window.
We quickly were out of the mountains and were immediately on the coast of the Tasman Sea. The rain let up slightly and as we were checking out the view I got my first exposure to sand flies. We weren’t on the beach, but oh were they out and about! I had reverted to flippies and so my poor exposed feet got their first taste of itchy scratchiness! BRUTAL!
Working our way up the coast we made it to Fox Glacier. It was still raining pretty hard so we opted to grab a yummy lupper (lunch/supper) at the Lake Matheson Cafe. Just as we were finishing, the clouds started to lift and we got our first real glimpse of the Southern Alps and Fox Glacier! We were very excited – I’d been hoping to get a glimpse of Mt. Cook/Aoraki and was happy to see some summits 🙂 We snapped a few pics of the peaks and then made a mad dash over to the viewpoint for Fox and got our first southern glaciers in our view finders.
The rain and clouds returned so we finished the night catching up on some email and checking in with our loved ones at home (wifi, yay!)