Coastal Westland is a pretty rugged and sparsely populated place. Between Haast in the south and Hokitika in the north there are few towns and a thinly spread population.
“The District consists of a long thin strip of land between the crest of the Southern Alps and the Tasman Sea. The low-lying areas near the coast are a mixture of pastoral farmland and temperate rainforest. The eastern part of the District is steep and mountainous. Many small rivers flow down from the mountains.
The southern part of the District notably contains the Franz Josef and Fox glaciers.
Westland is one of the most sparsely populated parts of the country, with an area of 11,880.19 square kilometres and a population of 8,403 people (2006 census). Approximately 45% of the population lives in Hokitika (popn.3500). The remaining 55% lives in small villages such as Ross, Franz Josef and Haast, or in rural areas”. Wikipedia
From Wanaka we travelled beside Lake Hawea and over the Haast Pass to reach the West Coast at the mouth of the Haast River. Our destination for the night was Fox Glacier Village, from where we planned to visit the nearby Fox and Franz Joseph Glaciers.
Some 25 km north of Haast is the Arthur’s Point lookout from where views of the Tasman Sea and the coastline can be seen.
In the year I left high school I hitch-hiked around the South Island of New Zealand with a friend. It was almost a right of passage between high school and university. We had travelled down the West Coast to Lake Mapourika, which at the time was almost the end of the road. To join up with the road from Haast to Wanaka we had to walk the newly formed but far from finished section of the road from the lake to Arthur’s Point, a distance of about 10 km in wet sticky mud. In the distance we could hear heavy road building machinery. As the time ticked far too slowly towards “knock off time” of 5.00 pm we were afraid we would miss any chance of a ride to Haast and have to sleep the night in the bush. At last gasp we reached the work party just as they were packing up to leave for the night. Happily we flopped onto the back of a truck for the final leg of the day’s journey.
Heading north from Arthur’s Point the road travels inland for a distance before touching the coast again at Bruce Bay, a rugged pebbly beach strewn with driftwood. If you like rugged storm-lashed beaches, this is the place to be. It was fine on the occasion of our visit, but it is easy to imagine the chaos when a south-westerly storm is raging – cold, wind-blasted, with wild surf and horizontal rain!
At the northern end of the bay the trees stand defensively against the weather, stripped of their lower branches and clinging to the eroding boundary between land and beach.
You have to be hardy to live in these parts. It’s little wonder that the coasters have that steely weather worn look that comes from living everyday with the elements.
Click on any image for a larger view.
On the high road between Queenstown and Wanaka over the Crown Range is the small settlement of Cardrona. To reach Cardrona from Queenstown one has to drive through two sets of switchbacks to reach the summit before descending through the Cardrona Valley to the village. For first-time drivers on this section of road, it is quite an experience. There are several lookout points along the road that give great views back towards Queenstown and Lake Whakatipu, and across the valley to the Remarkables (a jagged mountain range that is a feature of the evening view from Bob’s Peak in Queenstown).
Cardrona has a pub that is a mecca for skiers after a hard day at the nearby Cardrona Ski Resort. Established in 1863 and still bearing its original wooden facade, this character pub once featured in a TV commercial for a well-known Southland beer. While some gather in the bar to drink their apres ski beers, many migrate to the garden to sit at picnic tables or huddle around the outdoor open fireplace to recount their day and enjoy a gluhwein or two.
On the far side of the garden an old blue Model T Ford truck rests at home in a tumble-down shed. It looks the part in these surroundings, which are rather laid-back. It all adds to the character of what a visit to the Cardrona Pub is all about.
After leaving the rain behind us at Naseby the day before we drove directly to Wanaka to resume our holiday that was interrupted in August by my wife taking an unexpected trip to hospital in a rescue helicopter. We had two days still available to us that had already been paid for, which was the whole reason for this trip.
The next day dawned beautifully fine so we decided to take another drive up the western side of Lake Wanaka and then follow the west branch of the Matukituki River to the end of the road at Raspberry Flat, some 50 km from Wanaka. We visited Raspberry Flat last year while taking a day off from skiing but didn’t do any walking then as we had arrived late in the afternoon and did not have enough daylight available. The last 30 km of the road is unsealed, and the last 10 km section to the car park is a fine weather road only and subject to washouts. Sometimes flooded creeks can make it impassable.
The aim this day was to do the Rob Roy Valley Walk. Having proven herself at Mount Cook four days earlier, Valerie was determined to attempt this 3-4 hour return, 10 km walk.
From the Raspberry Creek car park it is about a 15 minute easy walk to a swing bridge across the West Matukituki River, downstream from the junction with Rob Roy Stream. These cable and plank swing bridges are common in New Zealand National Parks and provide safe crossing points on popular walking tracks over swift flowing mountain rivers. They can be a bit un-nerving for people who are afraid of heights and walking surfaces that move up and down, as well as sideways. Lateral cables tied to the river banks attempt to minimise the latter.
After the river crossing the track climbs steadily upstream to a lookout where the Rob Roy Stream can be seen flowing into the Matukituki River.
Shortly after the lookout there is an unstable slip on the track which has a steep drop-off that requires care when crossing. The track then follows the course of the Rob Roy Stream and climbs through a small gorge into beech forest, then into alpine vegetation at the head of the valley.
After emerging above the treeline you get the first uninterrupted views of the glacier and waterfalls for which it is famous.
Finally the track ends in an alpine meadow revealing the full glory of the Rob Roy Glacier and its seven waterfalls. Vast granite cliffs rise above the opposite side of the valley to the glacier which hangs above, seemingly ready to tumble over the edge at any minute. From high in the cliffs a succession of waterfalls cascade down the rock face to end in the Rob Roy Stream in the valley below. This walk is a favorite with several of our friends. It has now become a favorite for us as well.
After nearly an hour taking in the scale and beauty of our surroundings it was time to leave and return to the valley below. By this time the effort of the climb was beginning to catch up with Val and the descent was slow as she negotiated her way over the uneven track and across the muddy slip. Finally, almost seven hours after leaving the car park I towed a very weary walker back to the car. It had been a very memorable day which marked a second major milestone on the road to recovery.
Its a four hour drive from Queenstown in the Southern Lakes District of Central Otago to Dunedin. The road from Queenstown passes Lake Hayes on the way to the Cromwell Gorge and Lake Dunstan. After the events of the day before (see yesterday’s post) it was necessary to leave the lakes and mountains to travel to Dunedin Hospital to visit my wife and plan the journey home to Auckland.
The morning was beautiful, just like the one the previous day. Lake Hayes was unruffled by any breezes and I just had to stop to take some photographs. I was uncertain as to when we would visit the area again. After nearly four months of rest and physiotherapy since the accident Valerie is now walking – albeit slowly – and we plan to travel back to Wanaka and Queenstown in early February to complete our holiday, and hopefully see reflections like this again.
The morning that lead to the events described in the post Life can change in a split second began with this view from our motel of Roys Peak across Lake Wanaka. It was a lovely crisp morning with a clear blue sky which remained that way all through the day. What had started as a promising season for snow was ruined by rain after the initial dump, and no really cold southerly fronts had arrived to replenish the Southern Lakes ski fields. Only light falls of 1-5 cm had maintained the relatively thin snow covering. There was enough snow to ski on, but not as much as one would normally expect in a good snow year. In good years the snow would have been well down on Roys Peak (1,578 metres). Little did we know that morning how the day would unfold.
Red Sky at Night
It was nearly dark. As the sun set in the west a bright orange glow lit the clouds over the mountains. A chilly wind blew across the freshly plowed stony land. Out of the car to quickly capture the image and then retreat once again to the warmth inside. Head on back to Wanaka to takeaway dinner and a bottle of wine with friends.
On our return journey from Tarris to Wanaka in Central Otago the light faded quickly but as the sun sank in the west we were presented with this lovely orange sunset over the Harris Mountains and the Southern Alps. This type of occasion keeps us coming back to Central Otago, with its snow-capped mountains in the winter and vast dry open plains in the summer. The dark form on the left of the image is the Pisa Range. Click on the image for a larger view.
Along the Mt Aspiring Road
Travelling back to Wanaka from the end of the road to the Mt Aspiring National Park we passed this sign. The view of the mountain from this point is not as spectacular as the one closer to Wanaka but the mountain tops were still in sunlight and the shadows were lengthening quickly. I had to get the shot before the light was gone. Wispy clouds above the peak add to the atmosphere.
Further along the road towards Wanaka there is a small lake with boggy edges and patches of reeds. The clear blue sky and mountains coloured yellow by the evening sunlight were reflected in the water. I just had to stop to capture this image. Within a few minutes a breeze caused the water to ripple and the reflections were lost.
Where the Road Runs Out
This image reminds me of the first two lines of the hymn “The Dolphin Song” by New Zealand hymn-writer Colin Gibson (WOV 672):
“Where the road runs out and the sign posts end
Where you come to the edge of today…”
It was late in the afternoon when we arrived at the Raspberry Creek Shelter at the end of the public road from Wanaka to Mt Aspiring National Park. A few cars were parked at the shelter. Despite “No Camping” signs posted by the Department of Conservation, a lone tent was pitched beside the car park.
The grassy valley stretching before us was tinted with yellow highlights from the setting sun. Returning day-walkers relaxed in their cars preparing for the drive back to Wanaka before darkness made the narrow rutted road beside the Matukituki River more difficult to navigate.
In the distance, nestled against the mountains that rise steeply behind, a small green shepherd’s hut accentuated the isolation of this remote corner of Central Otago.
Late afternoon in the Matukituki Valley, 30 km from Wanaka.
The Wanaka-Mt Aspiring Road to the Matukituki Valley beyond the Treble Cone ski field road is gravel and gets narrower the further you drive up the valley. Bridges across streams are replaced by fords and care must be taken on single-track sections of the road beside the Matukituki River. Climbers wishing to summit Mt Aspiring must leave their cars at the Department of Conservation shelter at the end of the road.
The scenery becomes more spectacular as you drive further towards the head of the valley. We had a great time here after 4 days skiing at the nearby Cardrona ski field.