Franz Josef Glacier to Haast, NZ
Monday, 18 December, 2000
After lunch with our English acquaintances from the hike (and loading our pictures into their laptop) we continued down the Westlands coast along some of the prettiest, most winding highway we’ve ever driven towards the seacoast town of Haast. Not only is the highway beautiful, but it is uniquely empty by our standards. During the last 100 km, we counted only 33 cars, 10 camper vans and crossed 13 one-lane bridges. We were later made to understand that it was actually quite busy for that stretch of road.
At Haast, we sought out our evening’s lodging in the nearby village of Okuru Beach where we met out hosts, a charming couple named Marian & Derek Beynon. We walked the beach where the Haast river flows into the Tasman and returned to the B&B where we traded water tales with Derek and Marian. Last year the mouth of the river moved from one side of town to the other and they have subsequently built a rock barrier to reduce flooding of the town. Derek works part time on a heavy duty aluminum, jet-powered fishing boat fishing for crayfish. We’d call the prey spiny lobster. They also contract to help control the population of what they call possum. They do so by setting baited poison traps along the Haast River and surveying the population before and after. Their possum is a small mammal with an incredibly soft fur coat that has become a pest in the area.
Tuesday, December 19, 2000
After breakfast we began the ascent of Haast pass, along the river and past several picturesque waterfalls. Near the pass we drove between two beautiful lakes, emerging near the town of Wanaka where we stopped for an hour. Wanaka is a laid-back tourist town favored by many New Zealanders over the nearby, larger and more adrenaline-rushed Queenstown. Featuring a lake for sun bathing, boating and fishing and winter ski fields, it is a very nice area. Many shops, restaurants and motels/B&B’s.